TWO community-centred projects in Opotiki have emerged as big winners in the inaugural strategic funding round from BayTrust.
A total of $2.4 million was dished out to 11 groups from the 45 applications received in the first round of the funding – available for projects that will make a measurable and meaningful difference.
Opotiki District Council and Rangimarie Trust received a combined $482,000.
The council will receive $300,000 toward the building of Te Tahuhu o Te Rangi, its new multi-functional library, research and technology centre, and Rangimarie Trust will receive $182,000, enabling it to build four new social housing units in King Street, with building scheduled to start from October 1.
Rangimarie Trust secretary Victoria Radley said demand for Opotiki’s 12 existing units was high, due to a shortage of what she said was appropriate, affordable rental properties for the elderly, and so construction could now begin on a new cluster of small homes.
The new units – costing $900,000 – would be built in King Street behind the St John Church Hall.
Mrs Radley said the $182,000 BayTrust grant covered 20 percent of the total project cost. Without the grant, the social housing project would have been delayed, she said.
The trust bought the property the new units would be built on in February 2014 and obtained building permits in February this year.
“Building the homes means the elderly can stay living within our community instead of having to move elsewhere,” Ms Radley said.
She said there were very few rental options offering accessibility in Opotiki, which meant elderly people had to move away from the town.
“It’s a step towards addressing a huge problem. And when finances allow, we do intend to extend those opportunities.”
She said the new units had been designed to be accessible, with ramp access, wet floor bathrooms and they included special areas for storing mobility scooters.
“We are just so grateful to BayTrust for this grant. It is absolutely amazing,” she said.
In the past financial year BayTrust granted $4.3 million to community groups across the Bay of Plenty – an increase of 50 percent, with further increases likely in the next 12 months.
At its recent annual public meeting in Tauranga, BayTrust board chairman Kenneth Brown said even though there had been a 3 percent return in the trust’s investments, the earlier building up of its grant reserves enabled it to increase its grant total from $2.9 million to $4.3 million.
With volatility in global equity markets expected to continue over China’s slowing growth and in the wake of Brexit, Mr Brown said BayTrust believed its current investment portfolio of $193 million would see it able to protect and equitably grow the organisation’s investment capital, providing ongoing returns to benefit the local community.
By Ross McCullough