Nelson City Council has allocated the full funding available from its COVID-19 emergency fund created in April 2020 to help community organisations cope with increased costs, or reduced income, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, 32 grants were given to 27 community organisations in Nelson over 20 months. The fund was set up during the COVID-19 lockdown in April 2020 as a way of addressing immediate need but was kept open longer than anticipated due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19 in our community. 
“The emergency fund for community organisations has been important for helping community services in Nelson continue to operate in spite of reduced incomes or increased costs from COVID-19,” says Mayor Rachel Reese.  
“Unsurprisingly, many of the applications for funding were from organisations which rely on income from events or venues that simply haven’t been able to operate as normal during periods of lockdown.
“This financial support from Council was essential to keep community organisations running over lockdown periods so they can continue to provide direct benefits to people in Nelson City.” 

The Theatre Royal received much-needed funding from the emergency fund. Theatre manager, Eliane Polack, says the grants they received were essential for keeping the historic theatre alive.
“Lockdowns and event cancellations have had a massive impact on the performing arts community. We’ve had two disastrous years in a row for show cancellations. Only half of the community hires we had pencilled in, and one-third of the planned professional touring shows could go ahead in 2021. This has had a massive impact on our revenue, but we still have large, fixed costs for our theatre, which don’t go away when shows are cancelled.
“Without grants from the Council, alongside other Government subsidies, we would not have survived. Now that shows are beginning to return to the theatre under the traffic light system, performers and audiences are grateful the theatre is still here for the community to enjoy.”

Community groups providing support services also faced extra costs from the disruptions of COVID-19 and in some cases extra demand for services.
Michelle Allwright, Support Manager at The White House, a peer-led mental health day-support service in Nelson, says the funding they received from the emergency fund was important for keeping vulnerable people connected to the community. 
“For many of the people we support, lockdowns are incredibly isolating. We knew we would need to do more than our usual activities to draw people out of their homes to reconnect,” says Ms Allwright.
“We used the emergency funding from Council to create fun weekend activities and events, like building raised vegetable gardens to assist with cooking shared kai. It brought people together after lockdown and reconnected them with a supportive and inclusive community of their peers, which is important for supporting people’s mental health and wellbeing.”

To be eligible for Council funding, community groups needed to have also applied for all Government support they qualified for, such as the wage subsidy.
The allocation of funding was also designed to be quick response, to allow funds to reach groups quickly. Decisions on grant applications were made by a panel consisting of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and Chair of the Community & Recreation Committee. The aim was for community groups that needed financial help to go from application to decision in two weeks.

Mayor Reese said speed was essential.
“It was important funding could go where it was needed quickly. This fund was intended for community groups facing new costs or income losses from COVID-19 to keep afloat in tough times so they could continue providing for the community.
“It is great to see this funding fully allocated and out in the community helping to keep arts organisations, community venues, and support services operating in Nelson.”

The Council’s Community Investment Fund is still available for community projects seeking funding, with the next funding round to be considered in May 2022.