For the first time in five years, the St Albans Residents’ Association (SARA) is finally receiving a grant from the Christchurch City Council, thanks to the Shirley Papanui Community Board’s sense of fair play.
The $25,000 grant will be put towards employing a part-time facilitator in the community and help drive the implementation of the St Albans Strategy, a series of exciting, community-run developments planned for the area. See the 20 Projects elsewhere on this website for more information or download from this link .
Prior to the earthquake in September 2010, SARA received at least $50,000 per year in key council funding from Strengthening Communities. The community centre employed a manager, an office worker, a part time accountant and a cleaner.
When the quake hit in September 2010 staff could no longer work at the centre and instead of looking at ways the council could support the beleaguered association during the quakes, city council staff demanded the remainder of the unspent grant returned forthwith and consequently two SARA staff members lost their jobs.
While other organisations have continued to receive thousands of dollars, SARA has received no council funding, relying on small grants from enlightened funders e.g.: Vodafone, volunteers and others working in private homes to produce the newsletter, website and operate the barbecue trailer to raise funds.
In late 2014, SARA was successful in its tender to run the transitional community centre, which had been on site since 2012 and remotely operated from Papanui with users having to troop backwards and forwards to pick up and return keys.
Recent funding has enabled SARA to employ a part time manager at the centre, with subsequent increase in its use.
Key to these changes has been the work carried out by SARA co-chair Emma Twaddell, whose home was SARA HQ for several years and who has spent many thousands of hours behind the scenes writing submissions etc. She fronted up when others have stood back. For this, she has weathered abuse from city council staff and from those who think only paid, elected councillors and employed council staff are eligible to speak on behalf of residents.
With thousands of dollars in grant money held back by council staff, for whatever reasons, over the past five years, it has also damaged SARA’s reputation and held back the recovery of this damaged suburb.
SARA has a long history of advocating on behalf of residents’ interests e.g.: pushing back over ill-thought out roading plans in the 1990s and 2015. St Albans has also been the nursery for a number of community initiatives historically – the 19 year old community gardens in Packe St, St Albans News, published for more than 23 years, and OSCAR, the out of school care programme, to name but three. Oh, and St Albans NeighbourNet (now part of SARA) first offered public computer access in 1997, long before it was offered in our libraries or in other suburbs.
Things are turning around for the resident’s association, and for St Albans residents, after a period of deprivation, but not before time.