New Partnership Model Proposed for Zealandia

11 June 2012

Wellington City Council's Strategy and Policy Committee will this week consider a revised proposal for funding Zealandia.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says after considering public submissions and undertaking further analysis, the Council has recommended a new 'partnership model' that would deliver many of the benefits of the proposed Eco-City model while retaining the separate identity of Zealandia more strongly.  

She says the public generally expressed three points in addition to a general desire to keep rates levels manageable. They were:

  • Support for all the four places - Zealandia, the Zoo, Botanic Garden and Otari-Wilton's Bush
  • Concern that changes to the individual entities would reduce focus and volunteer commitment
  • A shared vision that 'Eco-City Wellington: Towards 2040' encompasses a significantly larger group of organisations, in-depth science and a wider range of locations than the four selected for the Council's draft proposal.

"Zealandia is an integral part of Wellington's broader eco-city story - which covers a wide range of assets and attractions that include, for example, our Zoo, Botanic Garden, Otari-Wilton's Bush, our wild South Coast and our Town Belt, all underpinned by our commitment to ecological restoration. a true eco-city also includes water and energy conservation and a broad commitment to sustainability.

I see this proposal as a stepping stone towards the eco-city concept that is such an important part of our Wellington 2040 strategy."

The partnership model would:

  • Allow volunteer and community support to be maintained at current levels.
  • Enable the Council to develop an active partnership with the Guardians of the Karori Sanctuary Trust.
  • Enable the Council to continue to appoint three of the seven board members and exercise the right to appoint the chair.
  • Include funding from the Council to Zealandia of $350,000 in 2012-13, and $700,000 in 2013-14 and 2014-15.  Zealandia has sufficient cash reserves for 2012-13. Future funding would be subject to a satisfactory review to be conducted by an independent person appointed by the board. This would be paid for by the Council.

Importantly, the new model would be underpinned by a memorandum of understanding (MoU). The MoU would ensure the Council provides 'back office' services to help reduce costs for Zealandia and include parameters for the appointment and accountabilities of an interim board of trustees. A key task for the interim board would be to appoint an independent person(s) to undertake a governance and business model review.

A separate funding agreement would be established between the Council and the Trust Board outlining the terms and conditions for providing ongoing operational funding to Zealandia.

The Council has been concerned for some time about the sustainability of Zealandia's business model and established a working group last December to consider Zealandia's latest funding requests. In April the working group advised the Council that no further funding should be provided to Zealandia until the governance and operational issues were addressed.

Mayor Wade-Brown says the proposed arrangement would lead to a stronger partnership between the Council and Zealandia, certainty for Zealandia and greater accountability for ratepayers.

"While Councillors have yet to consider this new proposal I believe it would deliver the result everyone wants, and that is a sustainable future for Zealandia and a better deal for ratepayers."

The Guardians and the Council would jointly adopt a set of performance measures for the Trust Board.

If it was adopted, there would be regular reviews to ensure the new model is operating successfully.  The first review would be in 2015, or at an earlier date if requested by either the Council or the Guardians. 

Another result of the consultation is that funding is recommended to use the curator's house at Otari-Wilton's Bush to improve facilities and public involvement at this national plant museum. If approved, work on alterations to the house would start in 2013.

In addition, Mayor Wade-Brown is proposing wider collaboration and cooperation, including joint leadership with Victoria University, to take a whole-of-city approach to biodiversity and ecological restoration. "We can support existing projects and research, upskill staff and volunteers and tell the Capital City's unique biodiversity story to locals, lead nationally and play our part in urban biodiversity leadership internationally."