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Years Of Work Down The Drain

7 April 2005

Years Of Work Down The Drain As Government Axes Key Community Sector Initiative

The cabinet has stunned the community and voluntary sector with this week’s decision to axe the national entity that was to work across the sector on projects and issues that would have benefited every New Zealander.

This is a devastating setback for relations between Government and the thousands of New Zealanders who give their time and money freely to assist community activity, says the Association of Non–Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa, ANGOA. ANGOA’s national network involves over 450 voluntary and community organisations, covering sports, the environment, welfare, disability, culture, health, faith communities and human rights.

“We want the cabinet to reconsider this week’s decision,” says ANGOA Coordinator Dave Henderson. “The community and voluntary sector put five years of effort into developing this concept, with active encouragement from the Government, and we are deeply dismayed that without warning they have abandoned it, just as we were about to launch.”

Government apparently wants us to think of other options, but THIS is our option. We decided this together. For over five years we have met, we have talked, we have spent numerous unpaid hours deciding upon and working with this option and all along the way we have been encouraged by Government.”

The new national entity was backed by the Government’s own decision in 1999 “To establish sustainable funding for a nationally mandated community and voluntary sector entity outside of the Government.”

The entity would coordinate and be a focal point for community, voluntary and tangata whenua organisations on sector-wide issues. It would strengthen the ability of these organisations to work together, and oversee projects to build professional competencies within the sector.

Dave Henderson says the Community Sector Taskforce charged with the job of setting up the entity already has a number of projects underway.

“We were establishing a centre of excellence for research on the community and voluntary sector as there is very little research being done in this area presently. We had also begun work on a communications strategy that would deliver key information to every community and volunteer group in the country. We want the minister to tell us what is going to happen to these projects.

“The Government relies on the goodwill of New Zealanders in community organisations to carry out tasks that would otherwise have to be done and paid for by Government at huge cost. The value of sector activity is estimated at $1.3 BILLION every year. If the Government continue to devalue this contribution through decisions like this, the consequences for the future well-being of New Zealand society will be deeply negative,” Mr Henderson said.

ANGOA has been told that the reason given by Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector Rick Barker for Government’s dumping the proposal was a concern that it would not add value to the sector and its relationship with the Government. That’s totally rejected by ANGOA.

“Sector leaders are adamant that the entity would provide huge benefits for the Government through its ability to communicate with voluntary organisations nationwide.

“The responses coming from sector leaders cover the range from shock, outrage, through to a deep sense of lost opportunity. The Government would do well to take a deep breath and think about the damage this does to relations with a significant sector of the New Zealand economy, that they depend on for delivery of a lot of services in the community.”

ANGOA has invited the Minister to a meeting to explain the cabinet’s decision, next Wednesday morning.

ENDS

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