I’m just beginning to wade through the heaps of reports and technical studies presented by Hastings Council in support of a Regional Sports Park.

As a citizen, it feels like I’m being rushed on this. It’s a very complex, ambitious and expensive proposed project. And yet I have not quite one month (public notice was given October 26th, submissions are due November 23rd) to absorb the information and — should I choose — make a submission of my views.

Most of the material proffered for my review involves detail on how the project will be implemented, as opposed to why the project is needed, what alternatives have been considered to meet our sporting needs, or what the operating costs will be and exactly how those will be offset by “commercial activities” to reach the Promised Land of a “rates neutral” project.

Let me see, shall I comment on the landscaping, the layout of the mini-putt course, or the floodlighting? Or should I lament the loss of substantial acreage in the Heretaunga Plains (28 hectares), or fantasize about how $50 million might be better spent around the Bay, or wonder how kids will actually get there?

Shades of Splash Planet … build it and they will come! Now it’s an albatross by admission of all involved in making the decision.

This time, the “consultants” making the proposal are none other than Kelt Capital Ltd. In other words, a developer comes forward, graciously tells Council “not to worry, we’ll do the planning and justification,” and now we the ratepayers are effectively responding to Kelt’s paperwork.

It would seem like HDC just handed the keys to Sam Kelt, jumped in the backseat, and said, “You drive.” Who is supposed to be knowledgeably and independently vetting this proposal on behalf of the citizens?

I’m not quite sure why submissions should be sent to the Hastings Council. Why not just skip the middleman and send our views straight to Sam? After all, it’s his park.

Maybe we need this project; maybe it’s a brilliant concept. But maybe we don’t and maybe it isn’t. Maybe instead of Sam deciding, the voters should.

If we can have a public referendum on selling a park, surely, once all the facts are impartially presented and understood, we can have a vote on buying one.

Tom

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