Editorial: A hard call, duly made

Last updated 10:22 07/05/2012

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OPINION: Who out there might reasonably have expected to be getting a Community Trust of Southland grant this financial year, but now won't be because of the schtuck that Stadium Southland and Rugby Southland found themselves in?

The community trust cannot be criticised for handing out $1 million less this year than the $9m it handed out last year.

Granted, $8m is not to be sniffed at.

But we have grown accustomed to that $9m figure coming into the community each year for nigh on a decade.

Even back in 2009, when the community trust recorded loss on its investments of just under 8 per cent, it decided not to rein back its grants.

Its reasoning, at the time, was that it was a perpetual investor and could suck up a year or two of compromised capital (most of those 8 per cent losses weren't realised) and keep going, whereas so many of the organisations it supported lived a far more hand-to-mouth existence and wouldn't necessarily still be around for the better times ahead.

It was a good call.

But there has to be a limit.

Last year the trust granted $3m more than it took in.

You can't keep doing that for very long.

And once again, it hasn't been a flash year for the trust's impressively built-up investment portfolio.

But what so emphatically and unhappily tips the scales this time is that the trust came, albeit at more of a trudge than a gallop, to the rescue of a collapsed community stadium and a brokeback rugby union.

It committed an unbudgeted fortune of $2m to the new stadium, over three years, and $500,000 to the rugby union.

The Invercargill Licensing Trust stumped up to that level as well, though it has been able to maintain its grants levels.

Bully for the ILT, but the community trust has at least cut its reduced cloth in the right places.

The missing million will not pull the rug out from under those organisations that have understandably grown to rely on community trust support, and in many cases would struggle extravagantly to find replacement funding.

Instead, it's the new major projects that won't get community trust funding.

If keeping faith with those already receiving operational grants is really the best the community trust can do, then A) damn and B) fair enough.

That's a balanced and disciplined approach, in character for an outfit that has in any case, by and large, been a tad less big-project-minded than the ILT.

Bear in mind that the lack of largess for new projects has significance outside Invercargill, or even Southland.

The community trust reaches into Queenstown and West Otago.

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Naturally, we can't help but wonder what new project visionaries might have been on the cusp of putting their grand designs to the community trust, only now to be told not to bother.

- The Southland Times

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