Neil Richardson - Chair / Kelvyn Eglinton - Chief Executive

From the Momentum Waikato Annual Report 2020 - see full report in PDF.

Momentum Waikato’s agility is what enables us to pursue and achieve our twin strategic objectives of leading ‘Transformational Projects’ for our communities while building a regional endowment fund of $300 million over the next 30 years.

Being nimble was certainly a feature of the July 2019 to June 2020 year covered by this Annual Report, as Momentum Waikato reacted to the challenges we all faced as a nation.

Acceleration has been the focus of our efforts, as we pressed on with existing projects, responded to the immediate challenges of Covid and interacted with a growing number of organisations as the pandemic prompted them to prioritise their long-term financial security.

We have now completed our first five years of full operation, during which our core financial goal was to reach $25 million in our regional endowment fund. With the transfer of $11 million from the Donny Trust and the establishment of new named funds through bequests and other trust transfers, we have achieved that goal with a balance sheet of $26 million in our care.

Despite the Covid uncertainty in the financial markets this year, we are pleased to report our investments with Craigs Investment Partners and Forsyth Barr have performed well, achieving an average gross return of 9.3% per annum on our endowed funds.

As important, we have now raised over $69 million for the Waikato Regional Theatre, distributed over half-a-million dollars to the community over FY2019-2020 and are on track to disburse close to $1 million per annum in general grants from next year.

We are now into our second five-year strategic term and our endowment fund target is $80 million by 2025. We will also be progressing Transformational Projects in affordable housing, community connectedness and education pathways for young people, priorities re-confirmed by the Waikato Vital Signs® 2020 report.

We continue to step up to the role of regional leadership for positive change, by bringing flexible financing to the table and connecting and convening as we go. Being apolitical, we can move more freely than bureaucracies and make rapid decisions for the best social and environmental outcomes, whilst still growing the regional endowment fund.

A key strategic move has been to transition away from grant-making towards ‘impact investment’, with a strong focus on generating positive social and environmental outcomes as well as a financial return. We are working with a wide range of partners, including local and central government, while utilising our particular combination of community and commercial skills and connections to get some ‘skin in the game’.

A key proof point in late 2019 was the gifting of the Houchen Retreat in Glenview to Momentum Waikato, allowing its trustees to retire while ensuring their mission of community support will continue forever. In partnership with the Wise Group, we are now co-designing a ‘wellbeing village’ at ‘Houchen’s’, which will provide wrap-around mental health and personal empowerment services and be the first example of a model that can be rolled out across the region and the country.

Our specific funds have continued to thrive. The Waikato Women’s Fund held events through the year and now has over $100,000 invested. In May, just two years after its launch, the Fund enjoyed a smooth transition to a new committee, which continues to go from strength to strength.

Meanwhile, work on developing the Waikato Intercultural Fund established after the March 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack (previously the Waikato Cultural Inclusion Fund) has proceeded at a steady pace. Well-attended community consultations and a working group built the foundations and this new giving circle now has a committee in place.

In July 2019 we launched the Hamilton CBD Development Fund in partnership with Foster Construction, which has since supported the spectacular Te Koopuu Mania o Kirikiriroa mural on the ‘Wintec Wall’, initiated by the Beyond Tomorrow Trust and designed and painted by Te Whētū Collective.

It was during the Covid lockdown from March to May that our role as the flexible component of the regional community funding eco-system really came to the fore. The Waikato Community Funders Group co-ordinated daily responses to support core agencies and frontline services across the region, within which we provided or supported a number of bespoke solutions.

We launched The Greatest Needs Appeal during the lockdown and have continued it since. This is essentially a ‘pass-through donation’ mechanism for concerned locals who want to target their donations to where they’ll make a real difference in the Waikato’s communities.

The ‘Here to help u’ service led by Community Waikato and the Wise Group was a key element of the Funders Group response, with our staff being involved in the initial food mapping and in promoting and funding its website. We also linked with Civil Defence and the Waikato Regional Council to provide a payment gateway for their Mighty Waikato Cookbook fundraiser.

In our own right, we supported the collective regional food relief effort which fed tens of thousands of people across the Waikato over April and May, including buying equipment for the Wise Group response at the Houchen Retreat and funding food for the Hamilton City Council-hosted effort at the Claudelands event centre kitchens.

While the Covid response was going on, we also pressed ahead with the 2020 edition of Waikato Vital Signs®. The final report launched in July presents the region’s key social and environment data with ‘grassroots’ commentary. Momentum Waikato and other local agencies will use this report to inform impact investment and grant-making decisions and to guide donors looking for philanthropic collaborations to drive transformational change.

The Waikato Regional Theatre project has continued to progress during the Covid crisis, although it was slowed due to the resulting extra hurdles and challenges.

In November 2019, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced to a crowd in Embassy Park next to the theatre site that the Provincial Growth Fund was putting $12 million into the project. That took the firm commitments to $69 million of our project target of $74 million, allowing us to announce that the project was ‘live’.

This meant the Waikato Regional Property Trust (WRPT), the new entity that will own and oversee the operation of the theatre, was able to move into build mode. However, Covid slowed the planning and procurement process, and then in recent months avoiding a potential impact on the adjacent urupaa has also added extra steps.

In the governance realm, we thanked Pam Roa for continuing into a second Board term, and welcomed Alan Livingston and Leaupepe Rachel Karalus, who filled the seats vacated by Parekawhia Maclean, who stepped down in July 2019 to focus on her then-new role at the Counties Manukau District Health Board, and our previous Chair Leonard Gardner, who resigned in February 2020 when Foster Construction was requested by the Waikato Regional Property Trust to submit a tender for the theatre build.

Momentum Waikato’s Independent Appointments Panel meanwhile amended its processes to ensure the iwi voice is heard in recruitment for our Board – Waikato Tainui will now be invited to nominate one of the panellists.

We thank Jerry Rickman and John Birch, who retired from the Appointments Panel during the year, and Mark Ingle, whose role ended when he retired as the Chair of the WEL Energy Trust.

At a staffing level, we said goodbye to our stalwart Office Manager, the fabulous Lara Conroy, who had been with us since 2015 as the backbone of our systems and processes. We wish her all the best in her new role at The University of Waikato.

We then welcomed Rhianon Lewis as our new Office Manager, bringing aboard her skills and experience in philanthropy and financial management from her previous roles at Hospice Waikato and The University of Waikato International Office. We earlier also welcomed Alix Stevens as our part-time Administration Co-ordinator, a key role for facilitating trust transfers and the growth of our funds, database, distributions and projects.

Since the start of the Covid crisis a common refrain from people has been “We should have set up an endowment fund five years ago”. The pandemic has clearly emphasised the vulnerability of depending on contestable, application-based funding and sponsorship.

In turn, the utility of Momentum Waikato’s central mission to build a 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. Since the lockdown, the range and depth of our conversations with Waikato organisations has markedly accelerated.

The challenges and opportunities that became more widely apparent during the regional Covid response affirmed that 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 sector and corner 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.