Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation
As the Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation (SWEK; Stichting Werelderfgoed Kinderdijk), we are charged with the governance and development of Kinderdijk-Elshout UNESCO World Heritage. Our chief task is to generate the revenues needed for the preservation and conservation of the windmills and the area for future generations.
Although (local) authorities have entrusted us with a considerable set of responsibilities, we do not have to face these challenges alone. Apart from the Blokweer windmill, all mills are located on Molenlanden municipal district. That makes the Molenlanden municipal authorities the proprietor of all nineteen Kinderdijk windmills – including the aforementioned ‘Blokker’, which is on Alblasserdam territory – and the monumental Wisboom pumping station. As such, Molenlanden is an important influence in anything we do. Furthermore, the neighbouring municipality of Alblasserdam, the province of South Holland, the Rivierenland District Water Board, and the National Service for Cultural Heritage (RCE; Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed) are all closely involved in all Kinderdijk affairs.
So what exactly does the Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation (SWEK) do? First of all, we were founded back in 2001, charged with the governance and development of the World Heritage site officially acknowledged by UNESCO in 1997. In addition to generating sufficient revenues to preserve and conserve the windmill complex, our main goal is education: to make sure the Kinderdijk story is passed on. These are substantial tasks, which have only gained weight as the flow of tourists kept on increasing. The small team we started out with has expanded into an organisation employing some fifty professionals in full-time and part-time service. We are supported by over two hundred volunteers, including skippers, tour guides, handymen and -women, and hosts and hostesses. Together, they are the crucial backbone of our organisation – we couldn’t do this without them.
The organisation is led by general manager Cees van der Vlist. This former Liesveld municipal counsel member was appointed as interim executive following the near-bankruptcy of Kinderdijk in 2012. In this, the Nieuwpoort resident is assisted by Johan Mellegers, who started out as our commercial manager, but has switched to a position of strategic advisor to the foundation as of January 1 2019. The rest of the professional SWEK staff consists of millers, maintenance personnel, catering employees, traffic wardens, cleaners, site managers, and management and operational staff covering various disciplines (including marketing & sales, ICT, HR, and communications).
Management is governed in turn by our Supervisory Board. This body monitors the implementation of foundation policy. It operates from an advisory position, acting as a sounding board for management while keeping a close eye on new developments and ongoing affairs. All board members occupy honorary posts.
The present Supervisory Board consists of the following members: Chairman Wout de Jong (Giessenburg), Walter de Zeeuw (Alblasserdam), Wim van Leussen (Ottoland), André Borgdorff (Harderwijk), and Steven van Nieuwenhuizen (Heemstede).
As we operate in the form of a foundation, we do not aim to make profit as such. What is important, however, is to make sure we have sufficient financial reserves; annual maintenance expenses are considerable. Whenever we encounter unexpected setbacks, the associated costs substantially impact the overall budget.