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Aratoi loses council funding

The cost-of-living crisis has hit a regional arts centre, which has lost $10,000 of annual funding.

Aratoi Wairarapa Museum of Art and History in Masterton, which first opened its doors in 1969, is dedicated to art, taonga Māori, and items illustrating the social history of Wairarapa.

Aratoi director Sarah McClintock announced the funding loss at the Masterton District Council [MDC] audit and risk committee in November.

McClintock said the decision by South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] to decline a funding bid for the 2023/24 financial year followed the council moving from a multi-year funding model for the centre to an annual competitive one.

“We do understand the current financial situation they [SWDC] are in,” McClintock said.

Councillor Colin Olds, chair of the SWDC finance committee, said total council funding for grants has been cut this year and confirmed the changed model for Aratoi.

“South Wairarapa District Council received a large number of grant requests totalling $345,880,” Olds said, while the pool of funding had dropped from $170,000 to $120,000.

“Some complex decisions needed to be made and there were organisations that missed out despite the amazing work they do for their communities.”

Olds said this year the committee has focused on social and community wellbeing work across the South Wairarapa district.

“Efforts are made to give the same considerations equally across the applications each year, to balance a range of initiatives that benefit the wider South Wairarapa community.”

Over the years, the community grants have supported both Aratoi and community museums, Olds said.

“However, with the reduction in grant funding this year, the council’s ability to provide regular funding to all groups in our community seeking financial support became harder.”

Olds explained a multi-year funding agreement between SWDC and Aratoi had finished this August.

“[They] were directed to apply again through the community and youth grants as multi-year agreements were not carried on due to the limited funding available.”

Olds said being unsuccessful should not deter applicants from applying to SWDC in future years.

At the meeting, McClintock told Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell that the regular annual funding from SWDC had been worth $10,000.

Caffell expressed his disappointment at the decision, and noted that “This is a regional facility, and it’s important it stays a regional facility.”

After the meeting, Caffell said it is a pity Aratoi’s funding has been cut, especially at a time when the facility has a better profile than ever.

“For an organisation like Aratoi, which depends on outside funding to exist, $10,000 is a lot of money. As a regional museum, it’s something the councils should be supporting,” Caffell said.

It is understood Masterton and Carterton councils continue to fund Aratoi through multi-year funding models.

Aratoi currently hosts between 25 and 30 exhibitions annually, delivers a free education programme to students, runs public programmes and a live performance series, and operates a museum shop.

The centre also hosts the only public collection of art works in Wairarapa. – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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