I’m all for sport … and I’m more than willing to invest in sport facilities and programs as a ratepayer.
But as it stands, I wouldn’t willingly put ten cents into the proposed “regional” sports park. Having studied closely the two consultant reports recently released on behalf of the proposal, I can only conclude that ratepayers are being sold a house of cards, ready to collapse if any of a number of specious assumptions fail to hold up.
The case for the financial viability and economic benefit of the sports park rests on a host of “build it and they will come” projections regarding participant usage, event hosting and visitor expenditures. I could list a few dozen of these dubious projections.
But going straight to the bottomline, look at projections from the latest consultant’s report (Cormilligan Group) … in a worst case scenario (using highest potential operating costs against lowest potential revenue target), the park could be losing $824,000 in Year 3 of operation.
And even this outcome presumes a $300,000 per annum subsidy (indeed, the park’s biggest so-called “revenue” source) from interest on a $5 million “Capital Replacement Fund” assumed to be raised by Sam Kelt on top of the project’s base $53 million capital cost. And bear in mind, “breaking even” does not include depreciation and the ratepayers’ cost of debt servicing.
Makes HDC’s consultant-sold, money-losing SplashPlanet look like a real bargain, doesn’t it?!
As worrisome as the financial outlook for the park is, that is only one of several major objections that can be raised about the proposal.
Additional concerns relate to:
- the senseless use of prime productive land for this purpose (together with the threat of additional development of surrounding land);
- the energy impact of transporting people to this venue;
- the dubious likelihood or ability of many sports enthusiasts to trek to the park (how many parents have been consulted by Council’s consultants?!);
- the tenuous health benefits ascribed to this facility (as opposed to sport per se); and,
- the questionable regional benefits of the project (just for starters, try to find a Napier Councillor who is enthusiastic about this project).
Our Guest Buzzmaker, Mark Sweet, in a Part 2 continuation this week of his previous column, goes into some of these issues.
Any one of these concerns merits more discussion than one mere blog post or column can accommodate. Which leads to my fundamental “due process” concern with the entire sales campaign mounted by HDC to sell the park.
Next Thursday the 10th, after spending the prior day huddled behind closed doors with its consultants (a session where the public might really learn something of value), the Hastings Council will meet in open session to formalise a public consultation process on the proposal.
But at that point, the full institutional weight of a cheerleading Council will be placed officially behind the proposal … for the Council will be recommending inclusion of the project in the LTCCP. It will be up to individual citizens to try to raise questions and present analyses that a truly objective Council should have developed itself, before endorsing the project to ratepayers.
Once again the public — with far more meager resources — is forced to play catch-up, to attempt to perform the due diligence and homework we should expect the Council itself to complete. Does anyone want to guess the outcome?!
Instead of launching a farcical “consultation” process, the Council on Thursday should vote to put this project on hold. We hope there will be a Councillor or two with the
brass prudent judgment to so move, and others to support them. The Council should pay for a truly independent review whose explicit charge would be to pick apart the proposal and raise all the critical questions that have so far been glossed over (including by the Cormilligan report, another cheerleading document).
Only through such a review can the pros, cons and risks inherent in a project of this scale and aspiration be fairly and confidently addressed. Given an objective presentation of pros and cons — instead of a Council/consultant sales pitch — the public might then be able to comment in an informed, useful manner during a consultation process.
As it stands, there are too many unchallenged assumptions and assertions, too many unanswered questions for the public to sort out. To put the sports park before the public now would be a farce.
P.S. Go here to easily send a message of concern to Mayor Yule