Queenstown hall upgrade funds blow

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Queenstown’s Memorial Hall upgrade has been rocked by a major funding blow leaving it three-quarters of a million short. 

The Queenstown Memorial Hall Trust has fundraised and received grants to the tune of more than $2.2 million for the estimated $3m project. 

It had applied for a further $800,000 from the Lotteries Commission expecting to get about $600,000. 

Lotteries has turned down the application, saying Queenstown Lakes District Council needs to put some more funding in first. 

The trust has raised a further $60,000 in recent weeks but now faces being about $750,000 short. 

Disappointed trust chair Cath Gilmour (right) – also a councillor – says Lotteries did explain the project ticked all the boxes but money was tight and no applicants got all they asked for, with many receiving nothing.

However, Gilmour says Lotteries did let her know early so the trust has a chance to reapply by the next funding round’s expiry of July 11. 

At a meeting on Monday, the trust decided to ask council for further funding and a bridging loan to ensure the project goes ahead on schedule. 

Gilmour wouldn’t say how much they’d be asking council for and was unsure how much more Lotteries wanted to see council chip in. 

Council is holding a special meeting this coming Tuesday at 3pm to consider the matter. 

“We hope council will provide us with the support we need to reapply,” Gilmour says. 

“There is still every reason for us to be in go-ahead mode – we have more than $2.2m in hand and huge community support. Delaying this vital upgrade would only add to the project’s and community’s costs.” 

Council has committed $492,000 so far which Gilmour says is equal to the hall’s planned capital upgrade spend. 

“Council is going to need to commit some more funds to improve what is its asset. It’s worth remembering the last time the hall was upgraded, in 1998, the entire cost fell on ratepayers.” 

Asked if it left the upgrade in a perilous position, Gilmour says: “No, because we’re optimistic we’ll get the support. 

The hall needs the upgrade, the community has already said that, council I think accepts that so somewhere somehow we have to raise the rest of the money.” 

Mountain Scene: “What about using Queenstown Airport dividend funds?” 

Gilmour: “Personally I think that’d be a fantastic fit, it’s a long-term community asset. But it’s not my call … that’s my fellow councillors’ decision.” 

Trust deputy chair Steve Wilde, who instigated the upgrade project two years ago, urges both council and the community to help. 

“I had anticipated locals were going to have to work hard to do this, and that’s what we’re going to do. You can’t just sit back and expect funding agencies to stump up all the cash.” 

Lotteries’ decision reinforced the trust’s belief that Queenstown can’t afford a bigger, purpose-built theatre now. 

“There’s no money for that and this proves it. Times are tough,” Wilde says. 

Tenders for the upgrade close tomorrow after tenderers called for extension of time from a previous deadline of last Friday. 

So far major contributors to the project have been Central Lakes Trust ($1m), the Community Trust of Southland ($400,000) and $300,000 in donations and contributions from the Queenstown community.

Thomas Brown Gallery on Speargrass Flat Road hosts a fundraising concert this Sunday at 2.30pm. Tickets are $25.