Down south, Nelson is also planning to build a sports complex, to be called the Saxton Field Stadium. It will be a 7000m2 indoor stadium — providing for netball, volleyball, basketball and other sport — located within a 65 hectare recreation area.

There are some interesting differences in how the Nelson City Council has proceeded, as compared to the Hastings Council and the Kelt sports park.

Perhaps most importantly, the Nelson stadium is embedded in a comprehensive regional strategy called the Regional Physical Activity Plan.

Unlike the limited rationale and potential for the Kelt sports park, the Nelson plan is about much more than participation in organized sport. It addresses a wide range of fitness activities and issues — walking and cycling as substitutes for automobile use, the role of commercial gyms and fitness programs, the needs of all age groups, the utilisation of all kinds of community facilities, integrating fitness improvement into workplaces and home activities.

In other words, while the stadium is a key component in an integrated strategy, the plan is not — unlike the Kelt sports park — a one-shot gamble sinking huge resources pre-emptively into one facility catering to organized sport.

In fact, Nelson has a dedicated “physical activity fund” which provides grants to a wide range of community groups, not just sports groups. In Hastings, that loud sucking noise you’ll hear — if the Kelt sports park proceeds — will be the sound of all sorts of local trust resources being sucked into the single pot for the sports park, to the detriment of broader community needs (including community-based sports activity).

The overall Nelson strategy, including investments in facilities and programs in addition to the indoor stadium, is envisioned as a ten-year program.

The stadium itself will cost $12 million … a cost that just escalated over earlier planning estimates by $988,000, or nearly 10%, when actual tenders were received! This cost increase contributes, in part, to an 11% overall rates increase adopted for next fiscal year by the Nelson City Council.

The Nelson City Council must put up $5.59 million of the stadium cost, the rest projected to come from local sports codes (in contrast, no capital contribution from Hastings sports codes) and partner Tasman Council (I hope Nelson’s mayor has firmer commitments from his partner than Mayor Yule has from his regional “partners”!).

The Hastings Council, not yet having officially approved the sports park, has yet to solicit construction tenders. But if and when that occurs, what might real world tenders do to the $57 million estimated cost of the Kelt park? A 10% rise in costs would mean another $5-6 million required. To be found where?!

To its credit, the Nelson City Council published for public review the results of the consultations they undertook with local sports codes and other representatives of the community. They also published the demand (or growth) estimates provided by sport codes, which are being used to drive facilities investments.

Again, unlike Hastings Council, which hasn’t produced even a list of the organisations it (or rather, Kelt Capital) consulted on the sports park … let alone any summation of what they had to say.

Finally, I might add that the stadium project in Nelson is driven by Council and its staff … not an outside party like Kelt Capital.

So as we enter the final week of debate over the Kelt sports park, it might be wise to reflect on the Nelson approach and experience to date. My take-aways …

  • Cost escalation is inevitable … and expensive on such large scale projects.
  • The issue is encouraging and facilitating physical activity, not just participation in organized sport.
  • Thus a “facilities strategy” needs to support a wide diversity of physical activity opportunities spread throughout the community.
  • A much higher degree of transparency in the consultation and decision-making process can be achieved, than has been evidenced by HDC/Kelt.

Nothing here to justify the passion of Mayor Yule and some of the Councillors for the Kelt sports park and its current accelerated “now or never” timetable.


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