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Published: 2015-12-18 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council is seeking to deepen the level of financial reporting it receives from the ground-breaking Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari ecological island project near Cambridge.

The council funds the fenced off, pest-proof bird sanctuary’s operational activities to the tune of $300,000 a year.

Councillors at their meeting this week supported a motion by finance committee chair Jane Hennebry for the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust to be asked to provide rolling cash forecasts, updates on whether these are being achieved and, if not, what remedial actions are planned.

The discussion at the meeting followed last month’s trust briefing to the finance committee, where it said it is chasing new funding sources to help address operating shortfalls. The briefing to the committee was delivered as part of funding arrangements.

The trust’s general manager John Simmons said that current annual contributions included $300,000 each from Waikato Regional Council and Waipa District Council, (a total of $900,000 each plus GST over three years) with the Department of Conservation putting in putting in $117,000 this year GST exclusive (and a total of $307,000 over three years).

Cr Hennebry said Maungatautari is to be congratulated on the way it is looking to increase funding from philanthropic sources and from the wider regional and national communities.

“Its success relies on the trust being able to further increase funding but I'm concerned that ratepayers may be asked to top up any shortfalls,” Cr Hennebry said.

“The trust is really thinking imaginatively about the way future operations can be funded with, for example, crowd-funding options and the employment of a professional fundraiser to work closely with organisations which make donations to such projects,” Cr Hennebry said.

“But the extra financial reporting we’re seeking after this week’s full council decision will help us keep an even closer eye on our investment in the project at a time it is under some stress.”

A number of councillors on the finance committee were particularly keen to see central Government provide more cash for Maungatautari.

Cr Hennebry said she would also like to see a greater financial contribution from central Government. "A majority of councillors approved a three year contribution to the trust in its long term plan matched by Waipa District Council and an appropriate crown contribution in a three-way partnership. However, the three-way partnership has increasingly become a two-way partnership with rates being relied upon as the main funding mechanism.

“With the project considered a unique ecosystem restoration project which could be a model for others around the country, it would be good if the Government recognised this more through a greater financial contribution.”

Council chairperson Paula Southgate said that she recognised the vital role the Department of Conservation had played at Maungatautari with funding and staff expertise.

“I look forward to continuing our very positive relationship with DOC as we continue to work together on this important project,” Cr Southgate said.

The council is committed to working with the trust to engage with additional partners and secure more funding for its activities.