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Auckland City's Facility Partnership Policy - guidelines for council and organisations wishing to establish key partnerships.
Auckland City Council receives a large number of approaches from very worthy potential partnerships. Due to limited funding to spend on community facilities, not all proposals can be funded, and it can be difficult to assess the merits of the wide variety of proposals.
The Facility Partnership Policy provides guidelines for the council and organisations wishing to establish key partnerships. The main aspects of the policy are:
- an annual programme for receiving and processing proposals - this enables the relative merits of the diverse range of proposals to be comparatively assessed
- establishing eligibility and prioritisation criteria
- requirements in terms of documentation, fundraising and ongoing operations are set out.
The council's total funding for the scheme is $6 million over a three-year period.
Depoliticising the process
Leigh Redshaw, manager,Partnerships and Funding at Auckland City Council, explains: "About 10 years ago, a common process for developing facilities was that an elected representative would come to the senior council officers and say, 'My constituents have brought me this great project idea, the community wants it, etc etc...'.The process was quite politically driven".
As a result, the wrong projects were sometimes being supported for development, resulting in duplication of facilities, poor ongoing community access, and less than ideal planning. It was in this climate that council officers approached councillors with a scheme for assessing projects using independent criteria, ensuring that project merit was the key driver, rather than a mixture of merits and political convenience. The policy was adopted in 1999.
The Facilities Partnership Scheme aims to provide sport and recreation facilities (as well as non-sports-related facilities) in Auckland City, in a way that optimises land use, minimises costs and ensures maximum community access. The key project goals are:
- community access to sport, recreation and other facilities
- developing existing council properties or other sport and recreation sites
- sharing and minimising costs to deliver maximum value to the community.
Auckland City, unlike many other councils, is landlocked. There is no room for the development of new rural land to expand into. This scarcity of land, and the high cost of purchasing land in Auckland City, means the council must make the most of opportunities to partner community organisations and landowners.
The scheme is positioned to be responsive to community demand, rather than to generate the demand itself. There are no spending targets, or requirement to process a specific number of applications or projects per year. Auckland City will not fund or develop partnerships where the proposals do not meet the specified requirements and funding criteria.
The council also seeks out potential partnerships to develop facilities in areas identified as high need. Some of these arrangements may be with the private sector and fall slightly outside the bounds of this policy. However, the council will explore these arrangements through other means.
Managing and reporting outcomes
Measurement of the project outcomes occurs within the context of the formal contract between Auckland City and the partner.
Within each grant there is a formal contract containing obligations across three project phases:
- Pre-construction founding phase - contains information about how the partners will participate
- Construction period
- Post-construction operational phase.
The initial phase of the contract includes preconditions for the release of funds. Specifically, funds will not be released and construction does not begin until the organisation has demonstrated that the total project funding can be guaranteed and the council is satisfied that the final design will still deliver the anticipated community outcomes and access.
Financial sustainability is a key outcome which the council requires in its partnerships/projects. This is achieved through the criteria for funding, which require applicants to demonstrate how the facility will be financially sustainable even after construction is complete.
The second phase deals with construction-related matters such as draw-down of funding, how to handle variations to the contract, and ensuring that transparent processes are followed to account for the use of public funds. The third phase is the most relevant to reporting outcomes. The operational phase includes annual reporting, and providing specific information around usage of facilities and financial data.
This information is used by the council to assess whether the funding arrangement has achieved what was originally envisaged and planned.
The scheme funds a diverse range of projects and involves partnerships with schools, sporting clubs and other community organisations. The following two examples demonstrate some of the scenarios for the partnerships.
Tamaki College Community Recreation Centre
The primary reason this project was supported was that a council-initiated community needs assessment identified the need for construction of a recreation centre in the area. The existing Tamaki College gymnasium building had been condemned. While the college was looking to meet their own requirements of a gym for students, there was also a wider community need for a recreation facility.
The end result was a larger and better recreation building/project than the school had envisaged. This outcome was made possible by combining resources. It was a win-win situation. From the school's perspective, they were able to receive funding from a range of third parties to develop the recreation facilities, as well as being provided with expertise and support to develop the project.
From the council's view, they were able to meet the needs of the wider community for a recreation centre, while not having to purchase the land. By investing $1.15 million into this project the parties delivered a $3.9 million community recreation facility.
Tri Star Gymnastics redevelopment
The Tri Star gymnastics partnership was supported by Auckland City Council for a number of reasons. Auckland City aims to supply facilities for a wide range of sporting codes and there was a shortage of gymnastics facilities in the central city area. TriStar is a long-established club, who has been operating for more than 50 years.
The lack of a centrally located gymnastics facility was a key issue because participants in gymnastics clubs are predominantly children, and are therefore dependent on their parents to transport them to the club. The location of the facility is on leased land within Keith Hay Park, which is owned by Auckland City.
Good practice lessons
When a club, society, or school begins planning a project, architects play a key role in helping them develop the vision. The projects are often very exciting and can blow out into a grand scheme at this conceptual stage. The problem is that once a scheme of a particular scale and nature has been floated, people begin to get attached to it. If it has already been made public, they may find it difficult to downsize plans, even if the scope of the scheme has become impractical or the cost unrealistically high.
There are two lessons here. First, expectations need to be managed, and it cannot be too clearly stated that it is unwise to finalise plans before getting advice and finding a solution to how they will be funded. Secondly, an architectural firm's interests and perspective on construction may not always align with the limited financial means of community development.
Volunteers involved in planning infrastructure development for clubs and schools often have very little experience working on large projects. Sometimes this inexperience can mean that the organisation has unrealistic expectations about budgets, timings and what is realistic.
It is important to communicate early on with the council who are prospective project partners and are experienced in dealing with these types of issues. It is not in the council's interest to downsize a community project for the sake of it. Rather, the council aims to ensure that community projects are realistic and can be completed within timeframes and budget, and without the council having to bail out the project, which is something that used to happen often.
Fundraising plans - keeping costs, timings and estimates realistic
Leigh Redshaw has this advice: "The most typical problems we strike in fundraising planning is that organisations and individuals underestimate the time it takes to fundraise. This becomes evident when their fundraising plans are submitted. The plan, which is part of the applications process, is supposed to demonstrate a well-researched, sound understanding of the grants process, the building application process and council processes. Overall, this provides a good indication early on of how realistic their project planning is".
Generally, most organisations grossly underestimate the amount of time all the various parts of projects will take, from fundraising to finalising plans, to obtaining consents.
The number of projects supported under the scheme continues to grow, as does the strength of the partnerships between the council and wider community.
To learn more about the Auckland City Council Facility Partnership Scheme please contact Leigh Redshaw, manager, Partnerships and Funding at Auckland City Council: firstname.lastname@example.org or 09 3074538.