Call to get $90m left in relief funds to needy

Posted 19 Jun 2012 by MediaStuff Popular
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Unspent quake relief funds
Canterbury District Health Board member Andrew Dickerson.

More than $90 million in earthquake relief funds have not been allocated, and community leaders are calling for faster, more focused spending.

Tens of millions of dollars in donations flooded in from around the world after the September 2010 and February 2011 quakes.



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But the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust, established by Prime Minister John Key and headed by former NZX chief executive Mark Weldon, has yet to decide what to do with $49.3m of the $99.6m it has received.

A total of $50.3m had been allocated to 112 projects, including $14m to repair the Arts Centre and $2m in sports recovery grants.

Weldon told The Press last night that "a good chunk" of the remainder would be allocated within 12 to 18 months.

"Of the $50m, I would say between $20m and $25m has already been directed by the donor, so we have restrictions around that, and sometimes it takes a bit of research to find a project that fits the bill," he said.

Some have suggested using the funds to help ease Christchurch's housing problems.

Weldon said that was "outside the scope" of the fund and there would not be enough money to "solve the issues en masse".

The trust has a 10-year life but it was hoped the money would be distributed in two years, he said.

Red Cross, which had $33m of the more than $115m in its fund unspent, was planning to relax qualification standards for its winter assistance grant. The $400 grant was currently available only to households with old, young or sick inhabitants.

"We want to extend winter [heating] assistance so it's not just for vulnerable people," a spokeswoman said.

However, the aid agency had no plans to wade further into Christchurch's housing issues, she said. "We don't have the money to tackle accommodation. It's not our job, anyway. We're not a social agency. That's for the Government to figure out."

Wider Earthquake Communities' Action Network spokesman Mike Coleman said Christchurch residents had been let down by poor leadership in aid distribution.

"We want it directed to supporting ordinary Cantabrians, not stadiums or convention centres or clubs. We need it to go first and foremost to those who are in the middle of the ocean drowning."

"They've only just started to do this [Department of Building and Housing] review in terms of homelessness and rentals and accommodation. If that had been done a lot sooner we would know where to place this money."The belated response to housing issues compounded the problem, he said.

Coleman singled out the Red Cross for making "some odd decisions".

"It seemed they had an awful lot of money and didn't know what to do with it,'' he said.

"It was handing out money because they really struggled ... to use it in more constructive ways, and now they won't give it out to folk they really could help."

Canterbury District Health Board member Andrew Dickerson said the money should "target the region's most vulnerable people".

"This isn't even close to being acceptable and it makes me really angry,'' he said.

''Everything humanly possible should be done to fix this, and some of the money from those trusts should go to [them] immediately.

"The level of hardship I'm seeing is unbelievable and it's something I never thought I would see in New Zealand."

Dickerson said social agencies that had daily contact with people who were struggling should be able to apply for and distribute funds.

Age Concern, Plunket, the Methodist Mission and Barnardos were agencies that would "have a very good idea of who was in need", he said.

The Christchurch Earthquake Mayoral Relief Fund has $2.6m unallocated and the Salvation Army Canterbury Earthquake Appeal $9.7m.

More for details on where the money has gone, visit:

Canterbury Earthquake Appeal Trust

Red Cross

Christchurch Earthquake Mayoral Relief Fund

Salvation Army Canterbury Earthquake Appeal

Income to end April 2012: $18,538,724

An additional $2.5 million was received from other sources, including overseas donations and NZ Government funding of $ 1.1 million through the Ministry of Social Development for the provision of counselling services. Funds contributed to The Salvation Army for earthquake response since the September 2010 quake.

Balance in reserve: $9.7 million (unspent funds)

Expenditure to date: $8.8 million

The Salvation Army utilised existing personnel and infrastructure to respond to the September 2010 and February 2011 earthquakes. A great deal of the costs of our response were borne as part of the day-to-day operations of The Salvation Army, with staff and centres simply stepping up to meet the additional needs presented. However, there have also been additional material, staffing, premises, transport and administrative costs, the details of which are provided below.

Welfare: $4.6 million

Includes $1.4 million on Westpac Care Cards, $ 1 million to fund 20,900 chemical toilets, and $ 130,000 for custom-built shower and changing cubicles. Additional costs include (non-donated) food and household items, packaging materials, purchase of cash welfare vouchers from companies such as Countdown and Mitre 10, respite holidays for families, and relocation grants. Includes support for Christchurch refugees presenting elsewhere in the country.

Counselling and psychosocial support: $1.4 million

Includes staffing, travel and accommodation. Including flights to and from Australia for reinforcements, many of whom had received training in trauma response and were experienced with bush fire and other emergency situations.

Earthquake Recovery Hub: $1.7 million

Ongoing costs to earthquake recovery programme, including the establishment of an Earthquake Recovery Centre, property costs, amenities, personnel, vehicles (including contributions towards Community Care Vans), office and other equipment, and warehousing. Limited direct administrative costs (eg, occasional travel of board members from Salvation Army headquarters in Wellington).

Disaster response phase: $600,000

Includes supplies, welfare costs, and meals for volunteers during initial earthquake response phase.

Schools project: $500,000

Child and family-focused support, including trips, camps, community workers embedded in schools to provide assistance to teaching staff and children and to work with families identified as needing extra support. Plus provision of earthquake preparedness kits for schools.


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