PC34 Funding Disappointment


PC34 Appeal Funding Disappointment

Dear MRA Members and Supporters

We are sorry to spoil your pre-Christmas festivities but need to advise members of extremely disappointing news on the fundraising front.  Contrary to our expectations that we would receive some funding from our application (for $40,000) to the Environment Legal Assistance Fund, the Panel recommended against our application. It seems the criteria for funding have tightened in the last couple of years and applications need to have ‘wider’ environmental and planning ramifications than PC34 was judged to have. The Panel’s conclusion was:

MRA’s main concern is predominantly local in focus.
Auckland-wide issues that might relate to future approaches to the Auckland Plan will inevitably be addressed by the Council as respondent to the appeal and local representation is unlikely to add to the wider arguments.
In all the circumstances, this application for funding is unlikely to establish a precedent in respect of future applications relating to Auckland-wide matters raised in submissions to the Auckland Unitary Plan.

Naturally, we do not agree at all that local representation will not add to wider arguments around the Auckland Plan and the Unitary Plan. The decision also implies that funding will only be granted if a precedent is likely to be established by the case. In our view, this is an impossibly high bar to reach for most community groups fighting undesirable over-development and effectively shuts  local voices out of the Environment Court. With hindsight, the costs involved in defending our position in the Environment Court were beyond us but, as we progressed further down the track, it was very too difficult to simply give up and stand aside.

We intend to re-apply to the ELA Fund but will need to argue our case very carefully and are not confident of changing the Panel’s recommendation.

Committee members regard this negative funding decision as a huge blow. Combined with the relentlessness of working on PC34 and the Unitary Plan campaign over the past five years, we feel exhausted and, at this time, simply lack the energy to bounce back with an immediate and large-scale campaign of fundraising events.

MRA's current finances

MRA has outstanding invoices of $42,930 (for legal, planning and traffic consultants) and a current cash balance of $5,340. This leaves a shortfall of $37,590. The PC34 Appeal costs we have paid to date are $39,663.46. Had we received the hoped for $25,000 or more from the ELA Fund, the committee feels it could have handled the residual amount in the shorter term with some small-scale fundraising events. Unfortunately, we are now required to raise a much larger amount in the short term, including $20,000  immediately.

The cold realities of the Environment Court

$37,000 is  huge amount of money in anyone’s language and members are entitled to wonder how  we have been left with such a shortfall. Apart from the rejection of our application for ELA funding, it is difficult for anyone who has not been involved in an Environment Court case to understand just how quickly legal and expert witness costs get racked up.

We are novices in the planning arena and committee members have learned  about the planning and appeal process as we have gone along.  At the end of each stage, we have moved cautiously on to the next stage. We had huge success in the original hearing for a minimal outlay in cash. However, we simply did not realise the huge costs involved in the Environment Court process.  While we have again proceeded cautiously, costs have outstripped our ability to fundraise during the expert witness caucusing and the Environment Court hearing itself. At that stage, we were so close to the end and felt that to  be absent in Court would have rendered our huge efforts over the last five years a waste of time. We felt we had to press on regardless.

It is worth thinking at this stage too about the massive efforts and results MRA has achieved in the Unitary Plan consultation process.  Recall that the initial plan showed extensive areas of central residential Milford as six storey apartment buildings. MRA’s substantial report meant that has been reduced to three storeys. That took a huge amount of time and work from professional and planning people on the MRA committee. We believe that residents in these areas (Milford, Frater, Cecil, Holiday, Saltburn, Crete, Frieston, Kitchener, Sylvan Park, Pierce, Dodson, Fenwick, Otakou, Rangitoto, Wolseley) have benefitted immensely from the unpaid work of these MRA committee members.  The Unitary Plan has now been notified and submissions close on 28 February 2014. Again, MRA’s professionals will be giving their time and skills at no charge to help ensure we lock in the changes we have worked so hard to achieve.

Where to from here?

The MRA committee will work for as long as it takes to raise the money needed to pay for these services already received. However, we trust residents will acknowledge that sole responsibility for this fundraising should not be the eleven individuals on the MRA committee.  That would be an unfair burden on people who have already given so much. Irrespective of the PC34 Appeal outcome, all Milford residents have benefited from our efforts and we ask everyone to make a further contribution to the cause.

We ask residents and supporters to contribute cash once more – even at this expensive time of year – so we can pay the most urgent invoices immediately. We will ask you again early in 2014  to do this.

In spite of such bad news, we believe that, with your help, we can restore our finances in a timely way.

With all the best for Christmas and the New Year from the MRA team

Please send your donations to: MRA, PO Box 31 067, Milford, Auckland 0741 or direct to our bank account: MRA, ASB Milford, account 12-3050-0484393-00.  Please email our Treasurer with your address and phone number if you are paying by direct credit, glenys@milford.org.nz

We again ask our MRA members and supporters to make a donation in line with their means