Uxbridge pleads for help to stay afloat

DILEMMA: The newly-renovated Uxbridge building offers more space but has increased operating costs and resulted in a massive funding shortfall. Photo supplied.

It’s been an entertainment hub for the Howick Village for 35 years, providing the community with a cultured sense of all the arts has to offer.

Now, the Uxbridge Arts and Culture Centre is faced with the prospect of closing for good if it doesn’t receive additional funding from the Howick Local Board.

In a March 20 presentation to the local board, Uxbridge director Vickie Bowers and chairman of the Uxbridge Community Projects Incorporated board Cliff Halsey outlined the necessity of an extra $100,000 per year in funding to continue operations.

They also requested an extra $35,000 if Uxbridge is required to pay water and electricity charges – a cost the centre was not responsible for prior to the $6.5 million renovations of the centre in 2016, mostly funded by Auckland Council.

In fact, Ms Bowers estimates without extra funding, Uxbridge will only be able to operate for another year before it will be forced to close the doors.

“The Howick Village Centre Plan for the next 30 years has a strong focus on arts and entertainment, and we believe Uxbridge is a key part of that future. It would be really sad to see it go,” said Ms Bowers, who has worked at Uxbridge in the role of director since 2015.

From musical performances to art exhibitions and workshop classes, Uxbridge offers a vast range of entertainment options and boasts the only north-facing cafe in the village with a view to the sea.

A comparison with other local council-funded arts centres in Auckland showed that Uxbridge is open to the public for the most hours and nears the top ranking on visitor numbers, but receives the second lowest level of funding.

Uxbridge operates on a council contract to provide services to the local community on behalf of the Howick Local Board and is expected to meet 50 per cent of operating costs.

Currently, Uxbridge meets 68 per cent of operating costs by running an unsustainable deficit budget, while the Howick Local Board meets the remaining 32 per cent.

“All we’re asking for is a fair deal,” said Mr Halsey. “We know we run a very efficient operation, and we’re very proud of what we do. Our staff put in a huge effort.”

National MP for Botany Jami-Lee Ross penned his thoughts about the Uxbridge funding shortfall in his column for the Times this week.

“Not only is Uxbridge expected to provide more services with less support, they also have to pick up the tab for many costs that the City Council used to cover,” he wrote.

“They have been pushed to breaking point.”

The Times contacted Howick Local Board chairperson David Collings for comment but did not receive a response within the given time frame.

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