What price the Tamahere Community Centre?

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For 15 years, barely a soul has wanted to serve on the committee that runs the Tamahere Community Centre.

But now a spotlight has been shone on the generations of committees that have done the voluntary job and for a community-funded body that has handled hundreds of thousands of dollars there is not a lot to see.

Accounts are sparse. Only four filings of annual accounts on the incorporated society register in 15 years, the first in 2008, and three for 2018, 2019, and 2020 all filed on January 17 this year (2022). In between the first and latest filing the society was deregistered (for not filing accounts) and then re-registered when it started again to comply.

Each Tamahere ratepaying household now contributes $70 annually to the centre in a targeted rate that began life, in 2006, at $60 then crept up over the years – to $66 (2008-09) and $70 (2011-12).

In 2006, the cost of building the new centre, planned over the preceding two years, was estimated to be $1.54 million. Funding contributions were led by the Waikato District Council with $700,000 with other significant amounts coming from community trusts ($256,000), Tamahere School ($50,000), major local fundraising efforts ($328,000) and a loan of $207,000.

Forty dollars of the original $60 targeted rate was to be devoted to paying off the loan over 10 years, according to the council 2005-06 annual plan. The balance of $20 was to be used for operational costs.

Over the first two years of the rate, 731 ratepayers contributed $25,920 as the centre was built in 2006, and 879 property owners were levied $31,253 in 2007.

In 2020, the most recent year accounts have been filed, the rate brought in $46,460 up from $40,588 the year before. In 2018 it was $39,224 and in 2017 $33,937.

Based on the known figures, over the 15 years, ratepayers are likely to have contributed a total of around $550,00 to $600,00.

At June 30, 2020, the centre society had net accumulated assets of $324,805. But the Devine Rd building was also in much need of maintenance.

In April 2021 the hall was closed for its first major refurbishment since 2006 with an initial estimate of $70,000 to be spent on jobs including replacing the ceiling tiles in the entrance, meeting rooms and toilet area while failing hall tiles were fixed more firmly in place.

By the time of the committee’s annual meeting in December, 2021, when all the repairs and upgrades had been done, the final maintenance bill was around $250,000.

The money had also gone on upgrading the lighting, installing security cameras, recovering floor areas and painting the exterior. As well, a new sewage processing system was installed to bring it up to the standard of the school with which the hall shares a system.

Tamahere Community Centre undergoing repairs in 2021

Despite the amounts involved and the pivotal role the centre plays in the community – it’s the school hall (for an annual rent of around $4500) as well as being used by a raft of clubs, groups, and private function hires – few people, a bare handful, turn up for its agm, which has always been well publicised on Tamahere Forum.

The willing that have put up their hands up have kept the ship afloat but now questions have been raised about the ongoing nature of the targeted rate – the original plan was for $40 of it to pay off the $207,000 loan plus interest in 10 years. That was five years ago.

In the 2008-09 annual plan, when the targeted rate rose to $66 the explanation was that the increase was to reduce the outstanding loan repayment term to 15 years, or by 2021.

When, if ever, will there be no need for a rate at all? $20 of it was for operational costs. In a facility that can generate income from hireage will it always be needed? (Pre-covid in 2019 rent income was $33,836; in 2020 it was $18,764.)

What brings about the end of a targeted rate? Who decides?

According to the Local Government Rating Act rates must be set “in accordance with decisions that are made in a transparent and consultative manner.”

As well councils must provide for “processes and information to enable ratepayers to identify and understand their liability for rates.”

At its June meeting, the area’s representatives the Tamahere Community Committee (a different body from the community centre committee/society) decided it was time to get some answers about the two targeted rates that apply in Tamahere. The second is $38 per ratepayer for the Tamahere Park playground and facilities.

The reps asked for the council chief executive Gavin Ion to provide them with a rundown of “what the funding is used for, details of the specific area of collection and an audit trail of expenditure over the past 15 years.

“TCC also asks that an ongoing periodic review of these and future targeted rates is established so that there is accountability and transparency for the funds that are collected.”

The reps suggested that the council devote a section of its website to details about targeted rates across the district as well as the bodies that oversee their use, including financial accounts and meeting minutes.

In a letter to Ion with their request the committee added that it was “not in any way criticising the work of our Tamahere Community Centre Committee or making any accusations or innuendo.  We just feel that there should be more publicly available information and sharing of information. Ratepayers should know what that money is being collected for and applied to.”

Community centre chairman Graham McAdam, who served on the representative community committee until he became hall committee chairman, has responded to the debate with an open letter to the community. McAdam drove the recent maintenance programme, a job which required a lot of dedication and time. He declined to be interviewed for this story.

In his open letter he addressed the ongoing nature of the targeted rate. (The original plan appeared to show that the loan repayment requirement of the rate would end in 10 years or 2016, the 2008-09 raise in rate put its term at 15 years or 2021.)

“Some of the longer-term residents believed that the part that serviced the debt would stop when the loan was repaid,” McAdam wrote.

“A search of the documents at council showed this to not be the case. The targeted rate was $70 ongoing and along with running costs the loan repayments came out of it.”

“While it is a pity there has been some confusion … I think that the same foresight that achieved this wonderful facility was also used in understanding [that] the ongoing costs of running the centre will only ever get greater and thus the full amount would eventually be required. Initial budgets clearly show this to be the case,” McAdam wrote.

“We have had a good income from hirage and the targeted rate, and the school uses the hall all the time, but the facts are we spend pretty much all the income on keeping the centre up to a high standard and the cost of running it. It is no longer a volunteer job to run it and we employ staff to manage the hireage and cleaning.”

He argued that costs continued to be high. “If we spent most of the money over the last 15 years it is not hard  to work out we will spend around double over the next 10 years. We have all seen the way cost[s] go up.

“I am hopeful that certainly for 10 years but hopefully well in to the next 10 years the targeted rate would remain the same,” he said.

To that end the centre’s annual meeting had passed a motion, with one abstention, that the $70 targeted rate continue, he said.

However, because there are no publicly available minutes from the meeting ratepayers have no idea who or how many attended the annual meeting and voted to continue the rate. The incorporated society’s register contains no detail on the society’s officers. There is no information about the committee on the centre’s website.

And while the committee may be justified in wanting to keep the funds coming in from ratepayers the rating act makes it clear that decisions on rates must be made in a “transparent and consultative manner”.

And where are, as also provided for in the rating act, the “processes and information to enable ratepayers to identify and understand their liability for rates”.

In the case of Tamahere’s much used community centre, and its high spec playground and park facilities, those processes are a mystery.

3 thoughts on “What price the Tamahere Community Centre?

  • July 19, 2022 at 12:42 pm
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    This is an interesting article with a lot of useful information. It has however left me wondering what the outcome to resolve this is and why that isn’t explained in the article?

    Reply
    • July 19, 2022 at 12:54 pm
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      It’s as far as I could get with the publicly available information. The community committee is, as far as I know, yet to get an answer to its request to the council. Perhaps there will be some response tabled at it’s next meeting on August 1.
      The community centre committee chair was unwilling to talk.
      It would be a good result if the story prompted a greater openness all round.

      Reply
      • July 20, 2022 at 10:28 am
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        Thank you – here’s hoping council has some useful guidance.

        Cynically, my experience with people unwilling to share their knowledge and voice transparently is because they feel threatened, so, intentionally cast archaical power and control or they attempt to deflect attention to mismanagement or deception – I truly hope this isn’t the case here and the chairperson soon realises shared information is also in his best interests to avoid community speculation.

        Reply

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