Fee hike hits hard

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By JENNY LING

NON-PROFIT groups say they’ve been forced out of an Auck­land Coun­cil com­mu­nity cen­tre by ‘‘huge’’ price rises, con­fu­sion and de­clined book­ings.

The Mt Roskill Probus Club and Di­a­betes Auck­land Three Kings sup­port group have up­rooted from the Fick­ling Cen­tre be­cause of a coun­cil shake-up of com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity fees.

The Probus group, which has 60 mem­bers, has met twice monthly at the Three Kings venue for the past 30 years.

Pres­i­dent Ward Buck­ing­ham says the club re­ceived a let­ter on July 3 say­ing the price of its reg­u­lar meet­ing room was ris­ing from $15.40 to $44.50 - nearly triple the cost. The re­vised fee in­cludes a dis­count for com­mu­nity groups.

The price of another room used for a monthly com­mit­tee meet­ing has dou­bled.

‘‘It would mean the whole of our sub­scrip­tions would be used in rental,’’ Buck­ing­ham says.

‘‘We would have to tre­ble our sub­scrip­tion to con­tinue meet­ing here.

‘‘They could have given us some prior no­tice and con­sulted us but we have had to find an al­ter­na­tive place.’’

The club has re­lo­cated to St Johns Pres­by­te­rian Church in Mt Roskill.

Di­a­betes Auck­land Three Kings sup­port group met at the Fick­ling Cen­tre for 20 years be­fore the coun­cil in­creased the cost.

Co-or­di­na­tor Mau­reen Hart­mann says mem­bers were in­formed of the changes in May ‘‘so we had plenty of time to reap­ply’’.

But they were ‘‘very sur­prised and dis­ap­pointed’’ at the in­crease.

The group’s 20 mem­bers will now meet at the One­hunga Com­mu­nity House.

‘‘Even with the dis­count [for com­mu­nity groups] it would still be more than what we could af­ford, so we de­cided to go else­where,’’ she says.

About 2500 reg­u­lar hir­ers use the coun­cil’s 109 com­mu­nity halls and cen­tres across Auck­land. About 100 use the Fick­ling Cen­tre.

The changes come un­der the new Hire Fee Frame­work for Com­mu­nity Fa­cil­i­ties ef­fec­tive from July 1.

U3A Ep­som pres­i­dent Janette Grant says the group, which has met at the Fick­ling Cen­tre since it started 24 years ago, first heard about the changes ‘‘through gos­sip from the tea-lady.’’

A book­ing for its Au­gust meet­ing was de­clined, and it was only af­ter re­peated phone calls and emails that mem­bers man­aged to se­cure it again.

U3A’s prices went from $46.20 for three hours to $129 at the dis­counted rate.

‘‘Since the greater Auck­land setup the dif­fi­culty of get­ting ac­tion has in­creased,’’ Grant says.

‘‘It seems to take about three times longer than it used to to find some­body with au­thor­ity to make a bind­ing de­ci­sion.’’

Puke­ta­papa Lo­cal Board deputy chair­man Harry Doig says he will ask coun­cil of­fi­cers ‘‘why some hir­ers are in the sit­u­a­tion that they’re in.’’

‘‘We don’t see it as ac­cept­able in any way.

‘‘We des­per­ately want to get to the bot­tom of it as well.

‘‘It’s a shock and it shouldn’t have hap­pened, but it’s try­ing to get con­sis­tency be­cause ev­ery dif­fer­ent coun­cil [be­fore the su­per- city] had dif­fer­ent book­ing ar­range­ments.’’

Coun­cil com­mu­nity fa­cil­i­ties man­ager Kevin Mar­riott says fees were re­viewed be­cause of ‘‘wide vari­a­tions in room pric­ing for sim­i­lar com­mu­nity fa­cil­ity spa­ces’’. All book­able space is avail­able on ‘first come, first serve’ ba­sis. ‘‘Hire fees for com­pa­ra­ble venues of sim­i­lar qual­ity, size and con­di­tion have now been aligned to cre­ate an ap­proach that is fair, con­sis­tent and trans­par­ent for every­one across the Auck­land re­gion,’’ he says.

‘‘We apol­o­gise for frus­tra­tion felt dur­ing this changeover pe­riod and are work­ing with our cus­tomers to help re­solve their queries.’’

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Tak­ing is­sue: Puke­ta­papa deputy chair­man Harry Doig will be ques­tion­ing coun­cil of­fi­cers about the changes.

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