Heated debate over theatre funds

There were angry exchanges at the Marlborough Theatre Trust annual public meeting in Blenheim last night as trust members clashed with John Brett over funds to build the new ASB Civic Theatre.

The exchanges started early in the meeting at the Marlborough Civic Theatre when Mr Brett questioned how much the trust had in the bank for the new theatre, estimated to cost $17 million.

"The suspicion is now that you haven't got the money, and it's not wise to go ahead on promises," he said.

Trust chairman Kevin Moseley said the Marlborough District Council was paying $6m for the existing building and had pledged a $5m grant, while the trust had raised $3.5m. Supporters were likely to donate more when work started on the building, he said.

"We've got three significant backers at the moment, but there's at least that plus more that are saying ‘Come and see us when you get started'," he said.

However, tempers flared when Mr Brett again questioned the amount of money the trust had and the way its financial report was set out. Trustee Tim Leslie told Mr Brett he'd "had enough".

"I actually feel insulted. You are accusing us of being dishonest."

Trustee Nick Fulton asked Mr Brett how much he had pledged towards the theatre, which Mr Brett said was a rude question.

"I pledge by coming to the theatre when I want to and I pay my tax. My wife worked here and my daughter has been a trustee."

Mr Moseley stepped in, saying he understood the trustees sometimes felt like they were having arrows fired at them, but Mr Brett had asked some important questions.

At the end of the meeting Mr Brett said he wished the trust good luck in its work.

During an otherwise positive meeting, attended by four members of the public, trustee Brian Dawson said the trust profit of $234,350 during the past financial year was up from $99,552 the previous year. The surplus had risen from $682,068 to $1,215,999.

Theatre general manager Alana Cairns said the three-year contract with ticketing company Ticket Direct was due for renewal and the theatre was considering other ticketing options.


The Marlborough Express