WEL Energy Trust Funding Update

In our last newsletter we provided an update on the draft 2024-25 WEL Energy Trust Annual Plan. The WEL Energy Trust is the most significant partner and funder of the Waikato Wellbeing Project (WWP). Our funding is secured in a Partnership and Funding agreement between the Trust and the Waikato Regional Council. The draft plan proposed to reduce the 2024-25 funding for the WWP from $400,000 to $200,000. 

Because of the submissions and presentations made, the WEL Energy Trust agreed to restore funding for the WWP in 2024-25 and has clarified they do not intend to exit from the project.

The WWP made a submission to the WEL Energy Trust, which you can read here. The Trust’s Annual Plan provided a valuable opportunity to hear from stakeholders about their perceptions of the WWP and how people see our value. Anybody was able to make a submission to the draft Annual Plan and the process followed that usually seen for a local authority plan, as is required by the trust deed.

A total of 81 submissions were received. This compares to 7 in 2023. Analysis by the Trust showed the following categories[1]:

[1] A total of 95 separate points were made by the 32 submissions which supported the WWP.

Overall, the WWP was mentioned by 41% of submitters, with 94% of these strongly in support of the project.  Many of the submissions that mentioned the WWP raised multiple points. An overall summary of the 95 distinctive points raised[1] are shown in Figure 1.

The greatest support (31%) was via general statements and comments which supported the WWP, matched by comments in support of the work the WWP does in relation to specific subject/SDG areas (31%), which are analysed further below. Lots of Little Fires was mentioned in 18% of comments made, although it was very common for submissions to both support the WWP, acknowledge Lots of Little Fires and mention youth-related SDGs, showing the interrelated nature of much of our programme.

About 8% of submissions noted the WWP’s role in regional leadership, and another 12% expressed concern that the Annual Plan should honour the WEL Trust-WRC Partnership and Funding Agreement, and that not doing so could have wider adverse effects on peoples’ confidence in community funding organisations in the region.

[1] This summary counts all mentions of specific subject/SDG areas as one topic.

Figure 1. WEL Annual Plan Submissions- WWP Mentions

Breaking down the 31% of supportive comments which were related to specific subject areas and/or SDGs, nearly half (48%) related to either food security or the importance of youth wellbeing (Figure 2). Since 2021, these two areas have received 68% of our SDG specific resourcing.  While the sample size of submissions for the WEL Trust Annual Plan is small and influenced by the relationships and areas where we have been working, this indicates a good level of alignment.

Figure 2. Specific Focus/Priority Areas Mentioned

A comparison of the priorities mentioned by submitters and the actual allocation of WWP resources indicated that:

  • There is support for a greater focus on food security.

  • Youth wellbeing has been a major priority for the WWP, and this should continue.

  • Since 2021 the initial focus on youth through an SDG lens has continued and has been augmented through Lots of Little Fires, much of which focuses on rangatahi wellbeing.

  • Many of the other areas mentioned by submitters are also areas where the WWP has allocated some resource in the past 3 years.

  • The above allocations do not include resources allocated to WWP support functions and other WWP projects such as Te Ara Poutama.

Hearings for the WEL Trust Annual Plan were held in late March. We were honoured and humbled that many of our Manu Taki, key stakeholders and supporters attended the hearing and spoke in support of the WWP, including the Chair and Deputy Chair of the Waikato Regional Council. We were also pleased to have the opportunity to further articulate to trustees why we believe the project is worth supporting and how we have created value over the past 3 years.  Our co-chair Mike Rolton spoke both from his point of view as somebody who sees wellbeing challenges every day, and as the co-chair of the WWP. Joe Wilson also provided an update on Lots of Little Fires and how it has created real impact.

Because of the submissions and presentations made, the WEL Energy Trust agreed to restore funding for the WWP in 2024-25 and has clarified they do not intend to exit from the project. A condition of the funding was that there will be a robust review of the funding models and project deliveries for the WWP. We expect that the results of the review will inform funding decisions for the WWP in 2025-26. You can read the minutes of the 26 March WEL Trust hearings meeting here, and the Annual Plan decisions of the Trust here.

A huge mihi to everybody who supported the WWP, whether by way of submissions, or through the feedback, comments and support offered while our funding was being reviewed. We are working with the Waikato Regional Council and WEL Energy Trust on the Terms of Reference for the review and will share these as soon as possible.