March 23, 2010

Council to invest $1.6million in Churton Park community facilities - maybe

Wellington City Council is to invest $1.6million into the Churton Park community - one of the most underserved communities in terms of community facilities.  But will the investment actually make it through to the community?

In December 2009 the City Council  received submissions from the Churton Park Community Association, considered community facilities investment in Wellington and agreed in principle to :
"  development of a partnership to deliver facilities in Churton Park - $0.85m; and upgrade of the community facilities."

The news about $850,000 (actually $845,000 according to Council official Jenny Rains) to be allocated for Churton Park community facilities will be warmly welcomed by residents who have been waiting a long time for such investment.
In addition to earmarking this funding for the 2012/13 year the Council also had land at Amesbury Drive which, I'm advised by another council official, it received in lieu of development contributions from the developer.  These contributions are meant for developing community infrastructure.  The land was recently sold and consequently the Council now has $812,500 in cash.  Together with the $845,000 earmarked by the Council for community facilities in the 2012/13 plan Churton Park could receive an investment of around $1.6million in community facilities.
However, once this money is spent "the forgotten suburb" is unlikely to see much further investment in the short to medium term. 

Residents will need to speak up - and soon - if they want, for example, a multi-purpose community centre such as the one in Newlands  - although probably not on quite such a grand scale.  Should the money be spent on playgrounds in the area?  Should it be spent on "extras" at the new school planned for Amesbury Drive?  Or should it be invested in a multipurpose Community Centre accessable during days - as well as evenings and weekdays - as well as weekends? - or something else? 
The Council, on request from the Community Association, has agreed to "consult" with the community.  However, the nature of this "consultation" is apparently to be discussions with "potential partners" - the Ministry of Education, the Boards of Trustees, discussions with the private developer and a quick phone poll of 300 residents.  Oh and some focus groups for some hand-picked residents.
In my view one concern with schools hosting "community facilities" (especially if there are no other community halls - is that most days of the week, and most hours of each day school property is not available for community use.  Community facilities should be available first and foremost to the community - unless the Ministry of Education are funding them. .  
It should be up to residents to decide what they want the $1.6million of their rates &development contribution money invested.  This means that when the Council does its community consultation it should hold a public meeting to allow residents to engage with Council directly, it should also provide a comprehensive list of potential options with associated price tag estimates.   But residents need to understand that this is their one shot at getting some good facilities for their community. It's important to get this one right.

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