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High community hall charges deter users

13 Feb 2017 12:45 pm

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High hall costs forced Charleyne Garner to run the Christmas Fair from her home.
Community halls managed by Auckland Council have very low occupancy rates, according to figures for the last financial year.

Point Wells Hall was hired for just 20 per cent of the total time available. Shoesmith Hall was 53 per cent and old Warkworth Masonic Hall was 43 per cent. Fees for these venues are calculated on an hourly rate of  $27.20 off peak and $34 during peak times like weekends.

Point Wells resident Charleyne Garner hosted the Christmas Craft Fair at her home in December, after 12 years at the hall. She says the fees escalated after Rodney became part of the Super City and community groups now can’t afford them.

“I used to hand over $15 per stall to Rodney Council, but in 2015 it took me a month of negotiating with Auckland Council to get the fees down to $182.60 for 17 hours over the weekend,” Mrs Garner says.

Under the current Council fee calculator, 17 hours during peak times at Point Wells Hall would cost $578. The hourly rate doesn’t take into consideration events like Mrs Garner’s, which are held over several days.

Council manager for community places Kevin Marriott says they do offer up to 50 per cent discounts for community groups, including Mrs Garner’s, as long as they meet the current criteria.

“In Rodney, that criteria includes activities that are not for private or commercial use, and activities that are contributing to community outcomes such as those offered by not-for-profit and community groups,” Mr Marriot says.

Council financing policy for community halls is based on a ratio of 80 per cent ratepayer contributions and 20 per cent user fees to cover running costs.

Many local halls including Point Wells, were built, financed and run by local groups before being gifted to Council. The Matakana Hall was built in 1959 and is still run by a volunteer committee.

Bookings administrator and committee member Bev Wenzlick says the group decided not to hand over the hall to Council several years ago. Hire fees for the 216sqm hall, with additional kitchen and toilet facilities are around $12 an hour or $100 a day. Bev says the hall is used for craft markets, weddings, dance clubs, sports clubs and community groups.

“Our hall is also used by a lot of worthy causes; we try to provide a budget venue for the whole community,” Bev says.

The hire revenue covers the costs of maintaining the hall, including annual insurance of $4500. Bev says volunteers undertake all the associated work including cleaning. The group does receive occasional donations and is applying for a Rodney Local Board grant to pay for a heat pump.

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