New Plymouth District Council’s new Community Development Committee has pledged $150,000 to help community organisations tackle food insecurity, as residents are hit by cost-of-living increases.
Councillors on the committee will continue doling out community grants, but now are also charged with collaborating with government, hapū and iwi and community groups to tackle social needs and build stronger communities.
Specifically, the committee will focus on food security and access to housing.
Committee chairwoman Dinnie Moeahu said it’s about enabling frontline organisations to achieve their own solutions.
”They actually know what’s happening within the community, they know where the need is the most.
“It’s not for us to dictate what organisations should do, it’s actually asking how can we help and then pretty much getting out of the way.
“We already give money to food banks through the community grant funding, but what we don’t have is the infrastructure of the committee to enable and coordinate and take massive action for our community.”
Mayor Neil Holdom expanded the work of the committee after the last election because campaigning candidates heard how communities were under pressure.
Holdom said the council didn’t want to replicate the work of community groups.
“It’s actually about talking to them and [asking] where is your pain? where are your constraints? is there something [the council] can do to help address those?”
“Can we bring in other people that can help, who have similar goals? Whether they be private sector organisations wanting to do some corporate social responsibility, or… philanthropic trusts wanting to deal with equity.”
At this week’s meeting, Cr Max Brough questioned whether $150,000 was enough and suggested raising it to $1 million.
The mayor quickly cautioned against that: “Let’s make a start and see what can be done”.
Holdom hinted that others were already looking to add to the council’s $150,000.
“I would not be surprised if we found another organisation ready to match that funding – not looking at anyone in particular.”
The Toi Foundation is most likely the organisation with the capacity to contribute at that scale.
Cr Harry Duynhoven said community funding had been slashed in the past.
“There were councillors who said in the past ‘nah nothing to do with us, not core council business, absolute rubbish, get rid of it’.”
“And some councils around the country, including some not so far from us actually did – but I’m pleased to say that we are still involved.”
The pledge on food security leaves $50,000 in the council’s Agility Fund for possible dedication to housing, which Moeahu said was also vital.
“Housing will be key for whānau to give them stability and security, and we do know there’s a dire need to increase that.”
“It’s not only associated with lower socio-economic whānau and families, but the middle class… we know people are having pain points, having to decide whether to purchase a home or to start a family.”
– Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded by New Zealand On Air.