Hastings Councillor Wayne Bradshaw, in his current BayBuzz Digest article, Measuring the Health of Bay Sport, argues that Sport in the Bay is on the ropes financially, and perhaps in other ways as well.

He estimates that Sport funding from gaming trusts — a mainstay of local Sport financing — has declined in the range of 30% or more in the last few years, due to a combination of factors — competition from other types of community beneficiaries, government action, fewer gaming machines and the general economic slowdown.

And he argues that local councils and Sport Hawke’s Bay have been slow off the mark to assess and respond to the situation, despite a parade of “strategy” studies, and even as demand for more local facilities and maintenance investment seems to be rising.

Says Wayne:

“What we need is an up-to-date inventory of HB sport and recreation facilities, with an infrastructure plan for Sport – together with a budget for true operating and capital expenditures – that covers the aspirations of all of the  people of Hastings District and Hawke’s Bay. The underlying principles should include: sustainability; building strong communities from within; making Sport accessible; having a viable funding model for Sport.

What might that funding model look like? We need to inventory the potential sources of funding:

  • Central Government;
  • Users (will they need to pay more?);
  • Voluntary fundraising (implemented in some kind of combined campaign);
  • Gaming trusts (we need to decide our desired degree of dependence on these funds);
  • Other — e.g., tithing of major sporting events, facilities rental for national/international events.

Looking realistically at these sources, we then need to quantify the gap between our Sports needs and ratepayers’ ability and willingness to pay for this sector on an ongoing basis. And we must adjust our Sport aspirations accordingly.”

This year’s budget submissions echoed previous years, with various sports codes making the same presentations to the Hastings, Napier and Regional Councils pleading for funds, both to maintain (or enhance) facilities and to address higher operating costs and diminished user ability to pay during the recession.

It does seem like the local Sport funding model is broken … something else to ask candidates about during this election season. Should councils be doing something more or different to support Sport in Hawke’s Bay (and who should take the lead?), or should Sport simply be left to compete against other community needs on a level playing field … “may the best man win”!?

Tom Belford

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