‘We’ll help the helpers’ – trust

Social crusaders: Members of Wakatipu Community Hub Charitable Trust

It’s no secret rising rents and shrinking funding pots are hurting the very groups tasked with taking care of Queenstown’s most vulnerable.

Noise around building a social services hub to help NGOs cope with ballooning operating costs and service demand has been around for a few years.

And, it’s just got a whole lot louder.

A new trust committed to buying and building a tailor-made facility for resort social services to call home has been formed.

The seven members of the Wakatipu Community Hub Charitable Trust met for the first time on Friday, and work to find a suitable site is full steam ahead.

Trust chairman John MacDonald says they’ve given themselves an “extremely ambitious” target of completing the hub in three to four years, and want to go out for sector consultation within two months.

“We haven’t got 10 years to do this”, MacDonald warns, because some key providers are facing losing their premise “within the next three years”.

Social services operating from a central place is not a new idea and trustees are looking to other models around the country for inspiration on what works and what doesn’t.

“We want a facility suited to the needs of Queenstown providers.”

While it’s early days and nothing’s set in concrete, the hub is likely to be based in Frankton, featuring meeting rooms and shared work spaces, with the potential for providers to share items photocopiers.

The aim is to reduce operating costs for not-for-profit organisations, so they can focus on supporting the community, MacDonald says.

“Most of these groups work with the same people, so there will be benefits in having a central place, where they can cross-pollinate and collaborate.”

It’s too early to put a price tag on the hub, but the cost will be considerable, landing somewhere in the multi-million dollar bracket.

Funding for a feasibility study has been secured, but MacDonald says fundraising will be an ongoing challenge.

“It needs to be affordable for these people on a secure and ongoing basis, so we need to own the land and own the building.”

“This is a long-term vision.

“We are talking about 30 to 50 years here.”

MacDonald, who is also a councillor, points out the project is independent of council.