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PAM.JONES

@alliedpress.co.nz

Stakeholders in the Central Otago Sustainable Living Programme and Alexandra Thyme Festival are hoping funding cuts which will see both initiatives cancelled can be reconsidered.

But the Central Otago District Council has reminded those stakeholders the programme and festival were never meant to be funded through the waste levy, and that funding will be reallocated into other sustainability education and programmes.

The council announced the withdrawal late last month of $54,000 of funding to the sustainable living programme, which is run by Central Otago Reap.

The funding cut would mean one part-time staff member would be made redundant, and the annual thyme festival would not be held this year, as Reap’s two sustainable living facilitators were the main co-ordinators of the festival, Reap manager Bernie Lepper said.

Mrs Lepper said the festival cost about $18,500 to run each year.

The festival also last week lost a $10,000 Vincent Community Board grant, which had been given annually to the festival since 2008.

A report from council media and marketing manager Alison Mason to the board recommended the application for funding for the 2019 festival be declined, in line with conditions applied to previous grants that the applicant actively seek alternative funding sources for the event to become self-funding.

Staff had held the February 2019 application pending the receipt of outstanding reports from festival organisers for the 2017 and 2018 events, Ms Mason said.

The report for 2017 was subsequently supplied, but the 2018 report had not yet been provided, nor any additional information about how to make the event self-funded.

As well, the festival was not viewed as something which brought visitors to Alexandra, Ms Mason said.

The board had adopted Ms Mason’s recommendation, which was based on council policy for such events, board chairwoman Sharleen Stirling-Lindsay said. Board members Victoria Bonham and Barrie Wills did not vote on the recommendation.

However, festival spokeswoman Beverley Thomson said it was a “huge pity” to have lost the sustainable living funding and thyme festival.

“What they [the programme] were doing was a phenomenal amount of community development work.

“To see waste minimisation as an engineering or capacity programme isn’t the whole story. If we want to change people’s behaviours we need to take a holistic approach.”

Ms Thomson said she was disappointed the decision to cut the programme funding was made in a public-excluded session at council, but said it was also “not too late” to now have a “proper round-table discussion on all of the options”.

She hoped there would be a way to reintroduce the programme and festival.

Central Otago Reap board chairman Roger Browne also hoped council would re-evaluate its decision, and said Reap staff were ideally placed to keep delivering sustainable education.

Council executive manager infrastructure services Julie Muir said $17,000 of the funding previously given to the sustainable living programme was being reallocated to the enviro schools programme, which is also delivered by Reap.

Other educational initiatives would also be increased, Ms Muir said.

The sustainable living programme was funded from a government waste levy, but did not meet the requirement for funding from the levy, Ms Muir said.