Karori Sanctuary Trust Governance Changes

16 April 2009

Wellington City Council is demanding changes to the structure of the Karori Sanctuary Trust Board as a condition of its loan funding to build the Trust's new Visitor and Education Centre.

The changes will see an increase in the number of Council appointees on the Board and are a result of a review into the governance of the Trust following a $1.9 million cost overrun in the visitor centre project.

Council representation on the Board will be increased from two to three positions while the Trust will provide four Board members. The Council will also have the right to appoint the Board chair from within its three trustees.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast says because the Visitor and Education Centre project is so important, and so much ratepayers' and taxpayers' money is already invested in it, the Trust requires new skills on the Board to help manage the commercial issues as well as the Trust's conservation initiatives.

"It's a wonderful facility, and we want to continue to support the volunteers, without whom the sanctuary couldn't function. However, we must ensure that its governance is right. We need to look after public funding for such a significant investment and to do that we believe that changes and a greater representation on the Board is needed."  The Council will review the effectiveness of these changes by December 2009.

The Visitor and Education Centre project is a three-way partnership between the Crown (Department of Internal Affairs), Wellington City Council and the private sector.

The Crown has invested $6.5 million and the Council provided an interest-free $8 million loan for the visitor centre but the project costs have since increased. Last November the Council agreed to provide an extra $1.9 million for the project on the condition that a binding review of the Trust's governance be carried out.

In March, to strengthen the governance of the project, the Council requested that Dean Riddell, Wellington director of international quantity surveying company Davis Langdon, be appointed chair of the Trust's steering group, which is overseeing the visitor centre project.

The Council has also agreed to give the trust an extra $480,000 in contingency funding to deal with unforeseen costs or circumstances, including delays to the project from bad weather or price rises in building materials, and to cover the project fees for Mr Riddell.  In order to attract people with additional skills to the Trust's Board, the Council has also agreed to give the Trust a total of $300,000 to remunerate trustees for the next three years. After this time the costs will pass to the Trust. Trustees will receive $13,000 per year while the Chair will get $26,000.

The Council's Governance Portfolio Leader, Cr Ian McKinnon, says the Council and many other organisations are committed to the Trust's vision and are proud to have the facility in Wellington.

"Apart from the fact that a fantastic visitor and education centre is now under construction and expected to open in early April 2010, Wellingtonians won't notice any dramatic changes in the direction of the Trust. For example, our proposals do not mean a move away from the strong volunteer ethos that has helped get the sanctuary off the ground and to where it is today.

"These proposed new governance arrangements will help ensure it has the best possible leadership to take it to the next phase as an internationally-competitive visitor attraction."