Loan becomes annual grant over 10 years

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 16:40 21/08/2014

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A $250,000 loan write off has taken the financial pressure off the St James Theatre Trust - for now.

The Gore District Council controversially decided to turn its $250,000 loan to the trust into a $25,000 grant for each of the next 10 years.

The decision was met with criticism by some including three councillors who voted against it as they believed ratepayers should get some of their money back.

But trust chairman Craig McIntyre said it was the first time the council had given the trust any money.

Most councils either owned or gave funding to theatres similar to the St James Theatre in Gore, he said.

The trust had asked for the loan to be turned into a grant from the outset and he said the trust was grateful the council had now done so.

The trust's job was to ensure the theatre was retained in the Gore district, with contributors to the trust being the Gore Musical Theatre, Gore Rotary, Gore Lions Club and Gore District Council.

All had contributed financially to the theatre over the years, except the council - until now, McIntyre said.

When asked if the council should be giving the trust an annual grant like other councils nationwide did for their theatres, McIntyre said it would be nice.

But he did not expect that to be considered for the next decade while the $250,000 loan was written off.

If there was to be an annual grant there had to be a reason for the money, he said.

The trust may now face fresh financial challenges.

It is planning to refurbish the theatre building, with applications for funding being put to various funding organisations. But that project may be put on hold if the structural integrity of the front third of the building is not up to scratch.

Engineers are expected to reveal its structural integrity soon and that work, if required, would be given priority, McIntyre said.

When asked why the council had never contributed money to the trust in the past, Gore district mayor Tracy Hicks said he believed they had never asked.

Despite the council traditionally focusing its spending on infrastructure, Hicks said he was comfortable with its decision to write off the $250,000 loan.

"It's all part of the mix in making sure people both stay here and come here."

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