Palm tree trou­bles costly

Central Leader - - NEWS - By ROSE CAW­LEY

AN ART col­lec­tion will have coun­cil fund­ing rolled over for an­other year thanks to a pro­tected palm tree.

Hills­bor­ough’s Pah Homestead is the per­ma­nent home of the Sir James Wal­lace art col­lec­tion.

Plans were in place to build an events fa­cil­ity there, look­ing out across Monte Ce­celia Park.

But smack in the mid­dle of the pro­posed site sits a pro­tected phoenix palm tree – shat­ter­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s hope of be­com­ing fi­nan­cially self-suf­fi­cient.

The op­er­a­tional grant was set to run out at the end of the 2015 fi­nan­cial year but the coun­cil has en­sured the $350,000 a year will con­tinue.

Al­bert-Eden-Roskill coun­cil­lor Christine Fletcher says the palm tree prob­lem has turned into a ‘‘soap opera’’.

‘‘You are deal­ing with a her­itage build­ing and you are deal­ing with an art col­lec­tion, those things aren’t cheap.’’

She says the trust has looked at putting the events cen­tre else­where but it doesn’t do jus­tice to the fa­cil­ity.

‘‘Any­one who has tried to book a wed­ding or big event in Auck­land knows it’s hard to find a venue. There is clearly a gap in the mar­ket.’’

But Fletcher says she re­spects that it is a pro­tected tree and that it is time to fo­cus on find­ing a so­lu­tion that works for all.

‘‘Even though I have a re­ally good chain­saw in my garage,’’ she says. ‘‘It would be grossly un­fair to de­prive them of the funds.’’

Op­er­a­tions and re­la­tions manager Matthew Wood says the palm tree isn’t the only fac­tor hold­ing things up.

‘‘We are look­ing for a long term so­lu­tion rather than some­thing that is just a stop- gap mea­sure. We are very en­thu­si­as­tic about get­ting the best out of the site and the park for the com­mu­nity. It needs to work for ev­ery­one.’’

He says no time con­straint is be­ing placed on the or­gan­i­sa­tion to be­come fi­nan­cially self-suf­fi­cient.

‘‘Money is very short. There is a huge amount of pres­sure on coun­cil bud­get at the mo­ment,’’ he says.

‘‘It’s walk­ing a fine line of what you would like to oc­cur and what re­sources you have avail­able.’’

Photo: ROSE CAW­LEY

The pro­tected phoenix palm tree which has pre­vented the con­struc­tion of an events fa­cil­ity at the Pah Homestead.

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