Marlborough Express - Blenheim's ASB Theatre funding

Columns
Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Blenheim’s new theatre is a world class facility and a great asset to the Marlborough community and economy.

Clearing the theatre’s debt of $5 million and ensuring its future financially by increasing its annual operating grant from the Marlborough District Council will ensure this asset can be used to its full potential.

Since it opened on March 16, the 700-seat ASB Theatre Marlborough has sold 17,000 tickets and attracted 22,000 patrons and performers, of whom close to 30 per cent were from out of town.

The economic benefit to Marlborough of the theatre is really beyond question. It’s bringing people into town who will stay in our motels, eat in our cafes and shop with our local retailers, which makes our whole economy sing.

The community have voted with their feet in support of the theatre by turning up in huge and unexpected numbers.

Already, the facility has attracted shows and performers who would not have been able to utilise the old civic theatre, such as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, the Royal New Zealand Ballet and television comedy show 7 Days. In fact, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was so impressed that she commented that the acoustics are the best in New Zealand.

There’s no doubt that the theatre is not only of the highest standard in New Zealand, but that it’s a world class facility.

Council intends to grant the Marlborough Civic Theatre Trust $200,000 from next month for its operating costs, as was agreed in 2008. This is an increase from this financial year’s operating grant of $100,000.

By comparison, Blenheim’s Marlborough Lines Stadium 2000 trust receives over $800,000 of funding from council per annum. It has been at this level since the 2012-13 year: In the 2014-2015 year, council’s contribution to the Marlborough Stadium Trust made up 26 per cent of the trust’s total revenue.

Like the theatre, the stadium is a wonderful facility which is of a high international standard and it’s a community asset: its operating grant is one of the things I’m happy to pay for in my rates and I encourage the Council to increase the theatres operating grant to $390,000 which would bring it into line with the other major asset, the Marlborough Stadium Trust.

The theatre has been 12 years in the making, thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers and generosity from within the Marlborough community.

Now the theatre’s finishing touches must be completed, and its financial future made secure in a way where it is not encumbered by too much debt which would hamper its accessibility to the community.

Like the old civic theatre before it, this new facility has an important role in continuing to foster and provide a venue for Marlborough’s rich and varied performing arts scene.

I have enjoyed watching my children in many school productions from primary school right through high school in the old civic theatre, and to now have a facility of such a high standard in our community is one of the things that makes Marlborough one of the best places to live.

I do acknowledge that many in the community are concerned about how we have found ourselves in this situation. But regardless we do have this asset which needs to be finished and not left in a situation where we cannot take full advantage of the benefits it will bring to our community.