QUITE STRAIGHTFORWARD REALLY
By Stuart Strachan, Chair, Blueskin Bay Library Redevelopment Trust
Rosemary Penwarden’s opinion piece ‘A Complex Issue’ in last month’s issue of Blueskin News requires a response.
Rosemary seems to object to the renaming of the library redevelopment as the Blueskin Bay Community Complex. Admittedly, this is cumbersome, but it does make the important point that the project is not a straight library rebuild. It also extends and complements the existing Waitati Hall facility with an additional, badly needed meeting room and more accessible toilets (including wheelchair access), and the enlarged library, now so inadequate, will be far more suited for community use. This is not mere box ticking, but is what the community needs and wants, as established through the statutory planning process, including lengthy public consultation, over five years. And it is what funding agencies require.
It is unfair and misleading to characterise funding agencies, including charities and trusts, as ‘the man’ who gives out ‘the dosh’. Funding decisions are almost always made by committees that are widely representative of the communities they serve, and invariably include women in their membership. For instance, women account for half the 12 members of the Otago Community Trust. In my experience, trusts consider applications rigorously, and there is no way they can be deceived by specious wording; it would be stupid to try. After all, they have had the discernment to contribute handsomely to the Orokonui Ecosanctuary and the Blueskin skate board park.
Concerning Rosemary’s contention that such projects represent a transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, I would make the following points. The lion’s share ($575k) of the project’s cost is already budgeted for from rates, which we all pay, rich as well as poor. Secondly, it is planned that the balance to be raised (now with community contributions already in hand $331,000) will almost entirely, if not all, come from sources that are not dependent on pokie machines. Certainly, we have not made any applications to such trusts. Finally, it should be remembered that the Blueskin Bay area has its own less well off, whom this project will benefit, just as South Dunedin has some rich people too.
Finally, Rosemary also appears to imply that South Dunedin is more deserving of good library facilities than Blueskin Bay. Of course, South Dunedin needs and should have its own library, but Blueskin Bay’s is now patently inadequate too. The two projects are not mutually exclusive, and it would be absurd to suggest that by shelving our own local redevelopment the Council saving would somehow enable the South Dunedin library to go ahead. The costs are of quite a different order – $10,000,000 or thereabouts, all from rates, for South Dunedin compared to $575,000 from rates for Blueskin Bay. In the Council’s present straitened circumstances, it makes much better sense at this time to stick with the Blueskin Bay project.