$160m later, trust looks back

Backbone of Otago . . . Otago Community Trust chief executive Barbara Bridger (left) and grants adviser Carol Melville look back over 30 years of the large scale grants organisation's work in Otago. PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

The extraordinary contribution of the Otago Community Trust to the development of the Otago region is being highlighted, as the trust celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Trust chief executive Barbara Bridger and long-standing grants adviser Carol Melville are looking back with pride over the 30 year history of the trust, which has given $160million to hundreds of groups throughout the region.

“Over the years, we have supported a lot of grassroots organisations, across the whole gamut of activities,” Ms Melville said.

This was alongside major funding support for community facilities such as the Edgar Centre, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Moana Pool, St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool, Moana House, Regent Theatre, Dunedin Community House, Dunedin Night Shelter, Sunnyvale Sports Centre and many more.

Ms Melville, who was the trust’s inaugural chairwoman for 10 years from its formation in 1988 and has been a staff member since then, is now working part-time and will move on to a “silver career” in December.

“I’m proud of what we have achieved – we have really tried to be responsive by providing not only funds but advice and support,” Ms Melville said.

“I hope that into the future the trustees will continue to appreciate the benefit a $500 grant can bring to a small group and the community around it.”

There had been many worthwhile projects over the years, but one which was of particular benefit was supporting the rollout of broadband to rural schools in the late 1990s.

“That made a huge difference to those rural communities,” she said.

In the past year, the Otago Community Trust has approved $9,017,173 in grants to 433 organisations in Otago.

Of that, $4,434,462 went to 232 groups in the greater Dunedin area.

The grants are given across a broad range of sectors, including sports and recreation, arts and culture, heritage and environment, education, and community, with 46% being grants of $5000 or less.

“We follow a careful formula, looking at community need and what an organisation has done to help itself – we can’t be everything to everybody,” Ms Melville said.

Formed in 1988 with funds from the sale of Trust Bank New Zealand shares to Westpac, the OCT started out with $131million and has grown its fund to $290million despite disbursing $160million in grants.

“Our investment strategy aims to ensure a secure future for the fund, so that we can give support to people now and in future generations,” Ms Bridger said.

The OCT is one of 12 community trusts throughout New Zealand which administer more than $4billion in assets and grant more than $100million each year.

The trust was constantly evolving to meet demand, and recently implemented a new totally online grants application system, Ms Bridger said.

“We have also been working towards more of a focus on strategic grant-making, as well as towards multi-year partnership grants with trusted organisations,” she said.

The Otago Community Trust will hold its annual public meeting at Dunedin Public Art Gallery on Tuesday, August 28, from 4.30pm to 6.30pm.