Fee hike hits hard
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 a ‘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."