Kelvyn Eglinton, Momentum Waikato Chief Executive

Kia ora tatou everyone.

Momentum Waikato’s agility is what enables us to pursue and achieve our twin strategic objectives of leading Transformational Projects for our communities and building a Regional Endowment Fund of $300 million by 2045.

Acceleration has been a feature of our recent efforts towards those goals, as we press ahead on our existing projects, continue to respond to the challenges of Covid and engage with a growing number of organisations.

Our headline news for the New Year is that the Waikato Regional Theatre really is finally close to reality. Just prior to Christmas the Waikato Regional Property Trust (which will own and operate the theatre) reached an agreed settlement in the Environment Court on the appeal related to Heritage NZ’s issued authorities. The resulting variation to the original resource consent was then received in early January.

This means the theatre project has now cleared all its regulatory hurdles, so the Property Trust is now finalising contracts and building schedules with the construction firm. Site work will start in a couple of months or so, with an announcement on the exact date due soon.

Momentum Waikato has now completed its first five years of full operation, during which our core financial goal was getting the endowment fund up to $25 million. With the transfer of $11 million from the Donny Trust and the establishment of new named funds through bequests and other trust transfers, we achieved that aim with a balance sheet of $26 million in our care at the close of our financial year last June.

We also distributed over half-a-million dollars to the community over FY2019-2020 - our 2020 Annual Report will be out soon with the details of our achievements over that twelve months.

Our second five-year strategic term is now underway, which has an endowment fund target of $80 million by 2025, and we are on track to disburse close to $1 million per annum from next year.

We will be progressing Transformational Projects in affordable housing, community connectedness and education pathways for young people, priorities re-confirmed by our Waikato Vital Signs 2020 report.

A key recent strategic move has been to the adoption of an ‘impact investment’ approach to funding, which means a strong focus on generating positive social and environmental outcomes alongside a financial return. We are working with a wide range of partners, including local and central government, while utilising our combination of community and commercial skills and connections to get ‘some skin in the game’.

Since the start of the Covid crisis people have often said to us “we should have set up an endowment fund five years ago”. The pandemic has clearly emphasised the vulnerability of a dependence on contestable, application-based funding and sponsorship.

Changes to the Trust Act which came into effect on January 30th are also prompting trust boards to consider professional administration for the investment and accounting of their funds and, most importantly, the stewardship of their trust’s objectives, both of which Momentum Waikato can provide in perpetuity.

In turn, the utility of the regional endowment fund, within which community entities can invest all or some of their capital reserves for secure long-term income, has become more widely appreciated. We are constantly engaged in ever-deeper conversations with a growing range of Waikato organisations.

The challenges and opportunities that became more widely and readily apparent during the regional Covid response affirmed there is a huge need for flexible apolitical community leadership that challenges the norms around funding, service delivery and organisational structures.

This is a role that Momentum Waikato sees itself filling, but to do so effectively we have to earn the trust and support of every part of our regional community, something we strive to do every day.

What is needed now, before the next crisis hits, is to ‘build back better’ by working outside the traditional structures. Not to supersede them, but to create synergies and amplify their effectiveness by breaking out of the traditional silos of endeavour.

We look forward to you joining us on this journey.