Two weeks ago, Mayor Yule was “pretty p****d off” that his sports park was jeopardised by High Court and Environment Court appeals. You would have thought opponents of the Percival Road complex were terrorists, not concerned citizens exercising their legal prerogatives.

Now, with Sam Kelt abandoning the cause, the Mayor is “incensed.” Next week, no doubt he’ll be “really, really mad.”

And to the charge by Sam that Kelt Capital has withdrawn from the project because of a Sports Park Trustee’s “improper personal conduct,” Mayor Yule, identifying himself as the implicated Trustee, remarked: “The allegations are rubbish and frankly I have got more important things to worry about.” Imagine, Sam Kelt, the same man before whose vision, project management and fundraising skills the Mayor has genuflected for the last two years, is now peddling rubbish!

But the Mayor is not the only one who should be incensed these days. After all, he’s not the only one who has bonded with Sam. I’m thinking of eight other members of the Hastings Council — Cynthia Bowers, Norm Speers, Kevin Watkins, Mick Lester, Derek Brownrigg, Mandy Kimber and, of course, Anne Wilson-Hunt — who voted to proceed with the project … with Kelt as the Messiah.

Councillor Wilson-Hunt, especially, has reason to be “pretty p****d off.” After all, it was the last-minute private pleading by the Yule-Kelt tag team, made the afternoon before the Council vote, that supposedly convinced her the RSP, and Kelt’s management role, weren’t such bad ideas after all.

If there’s anyone who deserves an explanation for what the hell’s going on here — why the park’s champion has withdrawn, whether $1.45 million or $9 million or what other documentable amount has been raised for the park, whether Sam Kelt intends to honour his $1 million pledge (and before or after he pays his Magpies pledge), whether the Mayor and his legal advisers have screwed up on the required decision-making process — it would seem to be Councillor Wilson-Hunt.

And she should get her explanation in public … because that’s what she assured us the public would get — transparency. Recall that, as justification for her turnabout on the issue, Councillor Wilson-Hunt made much of their promise to her of full transparency on sports park affairs as the project progressed.

Councillor Wilson-Hunt, if that promise has any credibility left, to say nothing of your own on the matter, it’s time to call these questions. An opportune time to do so might be Tuesday’s public meeting of the Council’s Community Services Committee. The Mayor and your fellow Councillors will be on hand. And since the Mayor doesn’t Chair the Committee, there needn’t be any confusion as to whether he addresses the issues as Mayor or as Chairman of the Sports Park Trust … in the interest of accountability, he can wear both hats at once!

Tom Belford

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  1. As a Hastings District Councillor who supported the development of the Regional Sports Park, I would like to add my perspective of the issues around its location on Plains land. The fertility of the Heretaunga Plains is, without argument, outstanding. The Hastings District Council’s Long Term Council Community Plan has always given priority to the “sustainable use and opportunity for the economic development of natural resources of the district” (2.3.2). The Resource Management Act (1991) directs us to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources to enable people and communities to provide for their social, economic and cultural well-being, WHILE sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations, AND safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil and ecosystems AND avoiding, remedying or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.

    So protecting the Heretaunga Plains, from Hastings District Council’s perspective, is more than just ensuring land owners continue to earn an income, and it is more than ensuring as much of the land as possible is used for food production. I believe that the role of the Hastings District Council is to manage the overall use of the Heretaunga Plains so that the life-supporting capacity is safeguarded, WHILE providing for our community’s social, economic and cultural well-being and this has to be achieved with minimal effect to the environment. If you had an opportunity to read information leading up to relocating the athletics complex you will learn that the land identified as the new site had been poorly producing and was no longer fertile. How much other Plains land has been farmed so intensively, that its life supporting capacity has been seriously reduced? How many owners of Plains land routinely rotate crops, allow land to lie fallow through a season so it may recuperate, and carefully consider the effects of future soil chemistry before liberal applications of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides?

    Thirty hectares of Plains land has been purchased for the Regional Sports Park. Of that total, five will be used for buildings and hard surfaces such as carparks and courts. The remaining twenty-five hectares will be left to grow grass, which will have members of our (and other) communities running and playing on it. This is a facility to provide for the social well-being of our community (identified by research to currently be one of the unhealthiest in the country). Aspiring athletes will be able to remain in our community to train and become role models for others, while supporting their families; at-risk and disadvantaged people will benefit from proposed programmes to be provided by Sport HB and Hawkes Bay District Health Board and others, and clients will improve their skills, their self-esteem, and their abilities. The rest of the community can take their families for a picnic, enjoy the playground, the walks, the open spaces, the planted areas, the confidence course, and maybe shoot a few goals on the netball courts or whack a few balls on the tennis courts.

    The value of the Heretaunga Plains is not solely in the fruit or crops it produces, but its overall benefit to the community. If the Land Protection Society really wants to make a difference to the 29,580 hectares of land currently designated Plains Zone, then I would invite them to put their expertise and resources into working with Hastings District Council to offer future direction to better manage soil conservation, land use, district plans, and current practices, so that we can holistically care for all the Plains land for many generations to come.

  2. Kelt's departure as RSP guru leaves the LTCCP hearings in tatters. The Mayor and his cabal fawned over Sam being the man who could deliver the goods. They said this in their speeches of support.

    Cynthia Bowers gushed, 'we're so lucky to have Sam,' and '$25,000 a month is money well spent.' She and Yule both attacked Tom in a Council meeting for questioning Kelt's character in a Baybuzz blog. 'we don't do things like that here,' remonstrated Cynthia. Lawrence was 'disgusted.'

    Councillors should revisit the LTCCP decision. Those who voted against should at least know their liability under the Local Government Act for being part of a legally flawed process, and see if they can indemnify themselves.

    Lawrence has stuffed up big time!

    His liason with Andy Lowe over Ocean Beach wasted around $3m. See the pattern?

    Now Sam spits the dummy, as Andy did, and it's the rate payers who pick up the toys – whoops – costs

    Why should we be stung by Yule's failed relationships. It's like having to pay for your neighbours divorce settlement!

    Tom's advice to Councillors is sound. Get it on record asap that you're uncomfortable about this change in RSP management. Get it on the minutes. It may be valuable evidence later on that you saw to your responsibilities now

  3. Unfortunately Anne bought the bogus argument that the soils where the sports park is proposed, are impoverished and no longer of value. This is an argument of convenience. Careful managment of these soils would have them back in tip-top shape in a year or two. That's the reality of my experience. Some short term lessees do thrash the land, but like many biological systems, they are more resiliant that you might expect. With modest effort you can restore them to their previous productivity.

    Secondly, the land on which the RSP is proposed is not the primary issue. The problem is that large projects like this tend to draw further development towards them. The Mayor has said that the land between the RSP and the city is likely to be urbanised. Any planner would agree that is a likely outcome. The soil classes in question are class 6 and 14 – the former is the most versitile soil in the district. The second prehaps the best for pipfruit. They are first rate soils. There are many areas that are no where near as good.

    Thirdly, why is there a need to build all the components in one location – particularly those that will be there for the next 50 years. There was this claim that it centralisaiton would provide many benefits, but this was not quantified or adequately explained. What are the negatives of building the velodrome at Windsor Park? I agree that sports fields are not so offensive and would not arouse such debate.

    The RSP is not a bad idea – but the scale is out of touch with economic reality and the location badly chosen. It was picked because it was available, not because it's the right place for such a project.

  4. The argument offered by Cr Anne -Wilson re the soils in the proposed sports park area is a non-event. There is ample expertise available, not just from the society ,but from land management officers,soil experts and experienced croppers,that could have been sought before embarking on this project.

    This particular land is not low yeilding and with good management can easily be returned to high production.

    It is all very well quoting from the RMA but the bible for councillors should be the District Plan which was put together after major consultation and expenditure and is the guide council has to work from.

    Councillors should be willing to listen to ratepayers,be impartial and retain an open mind.This is essential in helping to analyse issues before making a decision.

    The value in the Plains Zone IS in its productive ability and this needs to be put into perspective.

    I would say all our members are willing to help council at any time and those members who are from the city area can confirm they have joined us because they have assessed the importance of the issue and are willing to back us.

    Councillors from the city area ,once elected ,represent ratepayers from all the District.It is incumbent on them to gather information,understand the district plan and vote with an informed mind.

    This would go a long way to avoiding major blunders and misunderstandings that help no-one.

    The Act cannot be viewed in isolation.

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