Complaints about hall charges in Rodney have re-surfaced, despite a claim by the Rodney Local Board that fees for Auckland Council-run halls are now consistent across Auckland so “it’s fair for all”.
The North Rodney Community Arts Council shortened its annual exhibition in the Old Masonic Hall last month, by a day, citing hall charges as the reason.
The Jade River artists won’t be holding their annual exhibition in January and Kowhai Art & Crafts Society president Merryl Houghton says some members are suggesting the society move its annual exhibition to Matakana Hall, where the fees aren’t as “horrendous” as Council’s.
“Even with a 50 per cent discount, the society will pay $576 for the two-day Kowhai Festival exhibition at the Old Masonic Hall next month,” Merryl says.
Although members run a raffle during the event to help defray costs, they have had to introduce a $10 charge per member this year.
“Rodney District Council was far more generous as we never paid for the hall in those days. Financially, most community groups have a fairly hand-to-mouth existence.”
Warkworth & District Rose Show secretary Annette Sharp says the society paid between $40 and $60 for the Warkworth Town Hall prior to its restoration, but in November the charge will be $586, which includes the community group discount. “The committee was divided about returning to the hall, but we’ve been there since 1920 so there was a strong historic pull,” Annette says. “We’ve decided to try it this year and see how it goes.”
Local Board parks and recreation committee chair Brent Bailey says Council-run hall fees haven’t changed since July last year.
“There is a cost to run and maintain halls,” Mr Bailey says. “If the user doesn’t pay it, then it has to be the ratepayer. Given the feedback received in the Local Board plan consultation, Rodney residents support a user-pays funding model for community facilities.”
Mr Bailey says Rodney communities have the option of running their own halls, which means they can set their own fees.
“Several communities are doing or looking to do this including Coatesville and Point Wells. At Coatesville, they are hiring the hall out as a wedding venue and the profits are subsidising community groups who can use the hall for free. The Local Board is very supportive of communities taking on their halls and running them as they need to for their communities.”
Asked if he thought high charges were contributing to the low usage of Council-run halls in Rodney, Mr Bailey says he isn’t convinced current figures are entirely reliable.
“Once we have a centralised booking system, then we will have a more accurate idea of how and when the halls are being used. I think there is a lot of leakage – bookings that aren’t being recorded.”
Arts Council chair Joy Bell says the arts council lost about $1000 on its show this year.
“We received no Rodney Local Board funding and only a small Creative Communities grant,” she says.
Joy says the awards are facing an uncertain future and are unlikely to continue after next year, although that decision hasn’t yet been made.
“It’s a combination of a few things, but the costs involved are part of that decision,” Joy says. “A reluctance by artists to step forward and join the committee is another.”
The group paid $617 to use the hall from Thursday afternoon until 4pm Saturday.
The charge would have risen to $967 if Sunday had been included.
“So, with the $350 difference and a tight budget, Sunday had to go,” Joy says.
“The prices are ridiculous and so is the fact that you have to pay up until midnight even though the exhibition is closed. To add insult to injury, the hall was not even rented on the Sunday when the exhibition would normally run.”
Jade River artist Doris Riederer says after 10 years of holding exhibitions in the Old Masonic, the show has been cancelled and hall costs were a contributing factor.
“Up until 2015 we were paying a flat rate of $66 a day, but this went up to $330 for three days this year,” she says. “The quote for next year was $838.
“We exhibit because it is our passion. We can’t afford these crazy hikes in charges.”