OPINION: The Government set aside $4.695 million in its 2012-13 Budget for the Community Development Scheme, described by Community and Voluntary Sector Minister Jo Goodhew as a scheme aimed at supporting communities "to build on local strengths and address local issues". Grants are dished out (albeit rationed) to community organisations for projects to achieve improved economic, social and cultural wellbeing in areas such as health, education and crime prevention.
To get some idea of the scheme's importance in Beehive considerations, let's note that its funding is a bit bigger than the $4.217m budgeted for managing programmes for visiting guests of the Government, state and ministerial functions, co-ordinating a range of services in support of ceremonial and commemorative events and looking after New Zealand and foreign dignitaries. On the other hand, it is about half as much as the $8.273m budgeted for VIP transport services.
We don't hear much from Ms Goodhew, who has charge of a portfolio with a much lower profile than - say - Finance, Health or Education. But this week she announced the opening of a new funding round for the scheme. She explained that, through the scheme, communities can get the support they need to help themselves. The fund enables organisations to employ a community development worker who can help communities work together to decide what kinds of projects they need, then bring people together to identify how to make them happen.
Not every community can respond to Ms Goodhew's announcement and there are bound to be many disappointments. Applications for the new funding round are invited from community organisations, hapu and iwi based only in a few areas. They include "Meremere and/or Waikato and/or Matamata-Piako". One project will be funded in each area. As the minister explained, during each funding round the areas are chosen to ensure funding is well-distributed geographically over time.
Applications will close on March 20, 2013. That gives plenty of time for interested Waikato parties to make their case for a slice of the action. If your organisation is eligible - go for it. In these fiscally-straitened times, it's not easy to screw funding out of the Government.