A year in the Valley Project
This past year has been a year of consolidation for the Valley Project, in which we successfully completed our transition as an organisation from long-time uncertainty to long-term sustainability.
We have consolidated our staffing structure, finances, activities, relationships and governance, so we can confidently back the North East Valley community to develop and deepen for many years to come.
Finding our right size
Three years ago, when the government funding as one of four nationwide community-led development pilot programmes finished, we cut our cloth radically to reduce spending, halving our staffing and trying to scale the whole organisation down.
We tried this for a couple of years, but it did not really work, because the expectations and activity of this community kept growing as our capacity shrank, and an unfair load fell on our staff and volunteers.
Having had the experience of community-led development, the valley had more ideas, dreamed larger, wanted more.
In response, and following a staffing review eighteen months ago, the Valley Project has restructured and grown its core staffing again, back to the equivalent of about two full-time workers.
This is a level the executive committee believes is sustainable, and the right size to support our community.
Back in the black
Another large part of the consolidation effort has been on the finances. Over the past three years the staff and executive have put in major work to secure new income for the Project.
From a situation of almost no funding in 2016, we set ourselves a two-year goal to balance the budget by this year, and we have achieved that.
Through significant fundraising and tight grip on spending, we are confident that we can manage our income to match our expenses in 2019/20.
The key to this has been to secure two main backers, the Dunedin City Council (place-based communities funding) and the NZ Lotteries community fund, on top of our advertising income and rent from the Valley Community Workspace.
There are many other philanthropic trusts, church funds and community organisations and people who are also supporting us:
The Sargood Trust
Alexander McMillan Trust
Ethnic Communities Fund
Dunedin City Council - Puaka Matariki Festival
Dunedin City Council Events fund
Community Organisation Grants Scheme (COGS)
In addition the following funders have supported the Open VUE project:
The Dunedin City Council environment strategy - Te Ao Turoa
Lotteries Environment and Heritage Fund
Together they make the Project viable, so they have our sincere thanks and admiration.
A pumping heart - our staff and volunteers
At the heart of the Project we now have five wonderful part-time staff: project leader Tess Trotter, community worker Charlotte Wilson, editor and communications coordinator Edith Leigh, administrator Tessa Petley, and housekeeper Emily Peterson.
As a key partner of the Open VUE (Valley Urban Ecosanctuary) project we also host terrific educator Clare Cross. We have been lucky enough to have a social work intern, Erin Silver, who has stayed on as a youth activator and social enterprise coordinator.
We want to acknowledge and thank them for all the intense efforts and wisdom they have put in this past year, every one of them, and for the things they have achieved as a strong team working together.
The challenges keep coming, and they keep rising to meet them!
In the past year we also farewelled receptionist Rorie White, and established a new, separate reception area in the community rooms.
We have had great support from a roster of volunteers to staff our front-of-house though we could always do with more. We’d also love feedback on how this can work best to support the community, so please don’t be shy if you have any ideas.
We have recently made an application to the Support for Volunteering fund to support a project to strengthen our support for volunteers in the community.
Thanks particularly to Mark Dyer, who left recently for the UK. As neighbour, driver, Mr Fix-it and all-round friend for many years, Mark has been a pillar who has held up the Project, and we will miss him greatly.
Community-building, every day
Some consolidation has been necessary in our events and projects too, though the amount and range of our activities are still extraordinary for a community of our size.
Some highlights from our main projects:
The Community rooms were all repainted and refreshed by the staff and volunteers in January. The working spaces were also reorganised creating more welcoming and functional spaces.
Kai share has a new shed, and now feeds approximately 125 people a week with fresh food through our partnership with KiwiHarvest.
Healthy Homes programme has revved up again with new Heat Seekers drop-in clinics connecting Valley Residents with insulation subsidies, services and information.
The Valley Voice, our community’s monthly newsletter, reaches all 3,600 households - new initiatives include a supporters donation scheme, review of advertising, new columns and a recent focus on the migrant housing crisis.
Love the Lindsay - now gearing up for Creekfest 2019 in Spring.
Open VUE has completed its second year of in schools education. The project is now planning for the next phase, with a focus on backyards and overall biodiversity enhancements.
We have developed great relationships with our tertiary community. This has seen a number of students conduct projects, contribute volunteer time or intern with us over the past year, as well as student clubs contributing to events and initiatives. In turn, staff have been invited to give lectures and presentations to students on a variety of topics related to community-led development.
This year our events included:
Valley Spring Clean day
Matariki Hangi & Kapa Haka
Multicultural Pot Luck
Crush the Cargill
Two Open VUE community hui
The Loved, but not Lavish garden tour (huge thanks to Mary Waymouth and Diane Dixson for organising)
The many community projects we support are mostly going strong too. They include:
Valley Community Workspace
Open Valley Urban Ecosanctuary (OpenVUE)
NEV Community Garden
Dalmore Community Garden
Transition Valley 473
Love the Lindsay
Things we have let go:
The Valley Card - we could not get enough take up and business buy-in to be viable
New things we are investigating and/or supporting:
Trial of a Valley community market
A possible short course series modelled on Oamaru’s Sustainability Summer School
An initiative to recycle plastic from the Valley for reuse
In the past few months a new challenge arose in the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks, to support three recent migrant families to find healthy homes to rent in the Valley.
We have been delighted to welcome new families from the Middle East, especially Syria, Iraq and Palestine. However, they have struggled to get decent housing at a time when the city is suffering from a squeeze on supply and rapidly rising costs.
This has been tremendously difficult work, which has taken us somewhat outside of our normal brief and stretched our staff. However, negotiating the way that we support the community through the worsening shortage of healthy and affordable housing has been a valuable learning experience.
We have also established working relationships with organisations including Work and Income New Zealand, Ministry of Social Development, Red Cross, Immigration NZ, news media and David Clark MP’s electorate office, who are all working on the problem.
Showing a new way
Since our time as one of five Department of Internal Affairs pilot projects, the Valley Project has continued to be a model for community development in New Zealand.
This year we were shortlisted (top 10) for NZ Community of the Year in recognition of this.
Articles from the Valley Voice have been picked up and developed by mainstream local and national media.
Landlord to the stars
As landlord and partner of the Valley Community Workspace in Allen Street, we have done a great deal of work to make the property more safe, functional and weathertight. The buildings are now close to getting council sign-off for a Code of Compliance certificate, which will be a major milestone.
Huge thanks to Nolan Hill who has liaised with VCW and coordinated all the building work, earthquake strengthening, run the budgets and kept everyone on the same page.
One unwelcome challenge this year was the discovery of two underground tanks under the middle of the building, containing a flammable and potentially hazardous liquid. It has turned out to be old diesel, but there will still be considerable cost (up to $15,000) to have it made safe and filled with concrete.
Our thanks for all the understanding and help the VCW collective and tenants have given us. We hope to have this work finished and the central space fully usable again in the next few months.
Lifting our sights
When the decision was made three years ago to run the Valley Project without a manager, the executive committee became by necessity more of a committee of management, involved in the day-to-day affairs of running the operation.
However, now Tess as Project Leader is able to manage the staff and office, the exec has been able to move back into its core function of governance.
Over the past year the exec has reviewed and simplified the organisation’s vision and mission, updated many of the policies and procedures, led the financial direction, and overseen the staff and office reorganisations.
We continue to use a framework we have developed called CARES (Community, Aims, Resources, Empowerment, Sustainability) to evaluate our activities and decisions.
We want to acknowledge the service of a number of board members who have stepped down during the year or are finishing up their time on the executive. To Rosa Rhiannon, Pete Abey, Fraser Hunter (who has ably served in the Treasurer hotseat), Megan Turnbull, Joe Flaherty, Nolan Hill - thank you for all that you have given.
We have done great things together, but now it is time to lift our sights again…
Final comment from Steve
I’m also standing down after four years on the executive, including two years as chairperson.
I want to thank the staff and volunteers for the incredible work they put into keeping this Project running for the good of the community.
I want to personally give my thanks to all the exec members for the way they have contributed to make my job easier and work together for the good of the Valley Project.
As committed and passionate volunteers by definition you are busy people and yet you have still managed to find the time to do this work.
It’s been a privilege watching and being a part of it.
Steve Tripp, Chairperson of the Valley Project Executive Committee
Annual General Meeting
A range of community members and community groups representatives came along to share the evening with the Valley Project at its annual general meeting in June.
Short presentations were shared from the North East Valley Community Garden, Transition Valley 473, the Valley Community Workspace and the Open Valley Urban Ecosanctuary (Open VUE).
These groups sure have been busy. It was wonderful to have an insight into the happenings around the valley and the many shared aspirations across these groups.
There were some round-table discussions about gambling foundation funding.
The meeting finished with the election of the new executive board and a farewell to those who were leaving the group.
Executive board farewells and welcomes
Steve Tripp, Nolan Hill, Megan Turnbull, Fraser Hunter and Joe Flaherty were given a fond farewell along with Rosa Miles-Seeley and Pete Abey, who left earlier in the year.
The newly elected Valley Project executive consists of existing members Ian Telfer, Sarah Gallagher, Rob Thomson and Lois Scott and new members Radha Forest, Marama Smyth, Hinewai Broughton and Nicky Bisley.