Reduced fund round this year

ENVIRONMENT: Just $50,000 budget for environmental fund




The Country

Waikato Regional Council will run a reduced Environmental Initiatives Fund (EIF) round this year, with a total budget allocation of $50,000. The fund is a contestable community grants programme that provides funding for worthwhile community projects that directly benefit the environment or provide environmental education in the Waikato region. However, the number of funding applications and total amount of funds requested has been increasing each year, and the fund is currently supporting 27 active projects which has impacted this financial year’s fund budget, a staff report to the April meeting of council said. During the meeting councillors agreed to run a reduced funding round in 2022, with a $50,000 budget allocation and one-year applications of up to $10,000 only. This will allow for community projects — particularly where project coordinators or contractors are employed for such tasks as ongoing predator control work, supervision of volunteers, or day-to-day running of a community group — to apply for a smaller, short-term grant to help with costs. It also means $200,000 will be available from 2023/24 and beyond, while still maintaining a small reserve balance of approximately $44,000 for future years. Multi-year grants may also be able to be restarted in 2023/24, the report said. Grant applications will open in July. Past applicants and grantees will be notified of the change to the fund for this year over the coming weeks. Integrated Catchment Management committee co-chair (south) Stu Kneebone said many worthwhile community projects had been made possible by the fund, including planting projects, predator control, community engagement sustainability programmes and marae-based social enterprises. “Community-led conservation work is a growing voluntary activity. More New Zealanders are getting stuck into conservation-related projects and they’re looking increasingly for philanthropic and government investment. This is reflected in the increased number of funding applications received by the council in recent years,” Stu said. The amounts being sought for projects was also on the rise as applicants looked to sustain their projects over multiple years. “While multi-year grants have several advantages for community organisations, these commitments do result in the council having less funding available from year-to year to award other grants. This means there has been increasing use of the reserve in recent years, which is why we’ve had to reduce the amount of funding available this year to give the fund a chance to recover,” Stu said. The EIF is funded from a portion of the Natural Heritage targeted rate of $5.80 per property per annum. About $250,000 is allocated to the EIF from the rate each year. Expenditure from the EIF is dependent on applications received each financial year. The use of a reserve ensures that unspent funds can be accumulated across financial years. Assessment of applications is carried out by staff, with recommendations to the Integrated Catchment Management Committee for approval. The most recent EIF round completed in October 2021 resulted in 11 of the 27 applications being supported, ranging from $3775 to $27,276 and totalling $147,070.