By Jami-Lee Ross
One of my proudest moments last year was seeing the opening of the newly redeveloped Uxbridge Arts Centre.
It was a long haul for our much loved Uxbridge. From humble beginnings many decades ago, the vision of a community arts centre that was fit for purpose was finally fulfilled. Modern and proud; open and accessible.
The Mayor called Uxbridge “a gift to Howick for future generations”. Local hero Adele White described the centre as “a beautiful place and a significant jewel in Howick’s crown”.
Now that’s all being put at risk. I was sad to hear that Uxbridge is about a year away from having to close their doors. How could this be?
Despite a significant upgrade to the Uxbridge facilities that gave us a new theatre, as well as more capacity and opportunity to deliver arts programmes, they have been short-changed on vital operating support.
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. They have been pushed to breaking point.
Uxbridge is no bloated bureaucracy. They have always run on the smell of an oily rag with community volunteers pitching in where they can.
A comparison with other local art centres in Auckland shows that Uxbridge receives the second lowest level of funding, but is near the top in visitor numbers.
They are also open to the public more hours than any of their peers, with 100,000 visitors each year.
Uxbridge is cost effective and efficient. The hard-working staff and volunteers in our local patch are making every dollar of support go much further than any of the competing council facilities.
The Howick Local Board holds the budget for Uxbridge. But so far they have been missing in action, instead opting to leave it to officials.
Local Board members are the decision-makers though. It’s time for them to show they value Uxbridge like the Howick community does.
Howick locals have never been shy in standing up when local treasures are threatened. We are at the point of having to do that again.
Our community values the arts. The community values our Uxbridge.
We had no hesitation in fighting for redevelopment funding from the old Manukau City
Council. It looks like we will have to fight again, this time to convince the Howick Local Board they can’t let Uxbridge go.
Member of Parliament for Botany