You’ve got to hand it to Mayor Yule. He’s working overtime to sell Sam’s sports park.

Today, responding to entreaties from Mayor Yule and Sam himself, the HB Regional Council authorized its Chairman, Rex McIntyre to author a letter endorsing the proposed sports park “in principle.” The letter will be used by Kelt Capital to impress other would-be funders that the HBRC likes the idea.

And so, the Mayor has gotten the HBRC pregnant. Even though the letter is crafted to hedge on the matter of whether the HBRC will itself contribute any funds (citing the need to study the details, consult the public, and weigh against other HBRC spending priorities), without doubt it will be waved about by Sam to signal that the Council supports the project pending some “mere formalities” and, significantly, won’t pose a political obstacle.

In a mockery of responsible decision-making, HBRC agreed (with only Councillor Remmerswaal dissenting) to the letter without having had any informed discussion of the pros and cons of the project. Only today did the Council receive an independent study of the matter.

“Hey, we haven’t considered the sports park’s impact on the region’s most fertile land, or on transport, water or wastewater disposal — to say nothing of the capital and operating budget implications — but let’s not confuse ourselves … we just love the concept in principle … Go for it Sam … earn that $25,000/month project management fee!”

And to cover another base in the propaganda initiative, last week HDC breathlessly released a report it had commissioned on the economic impact the sports park would have.

Now … when have we seen a consultancy bite the hand that feeds it?!

In this case, apart from the economic impacts of initial construction and ongoing management, a value-added gain of some $24 million over five years from site usage is alleged. This gain is driven by a set of assumptions about visitors to various events hosted at the venue. But consider …

  • The assumed events were dictated by Kelt Capital … they were neither developed nor vetted or challenged by the consultancy. Hardly the basis for an independent or objective valuation.
  • Similarly, the report notes that Kelt Capital “specifically requested” the consultancy to include the spending of local residents (“visitors”) as part of the park’s economic impact. In other words, if you bought the same bottle of water at the sports park as you otherwise would have bought at, say, the BP in Havelock, when taking your kid to a local football field, all of a sudden you’ve become a benefit of the park. But this is not new or incremental money … it’s a shell game.
  • Likewise, 41,500 visitor nights (which drive the real money), or 36% of all assumed visitor nights, are attributed to one speculative event … the Junior World Cycling Championships. But the study notes: ” (it) is only tentatively included. It should be primarily regarded as providing an indication of the significantly increased visitor spending that can be achieved with a major international sports competition.” Hey, what about an Olympic event?

All in all, this is the same kind of flimsy analysis that brought HDC the Splash Planet economic debacle. Only the potential scale of ratepayer burden is greater.

Sounds like a used car sales pitch to me.


Join the Conversation


  1. Greetings Tom,

    Opinion is free, facts are sacred.

    The HB RC officially received the sports park report yesterday but we have had a copy of the report for a month or two ,so we have had time to read it and give it the careful consideration that we as a body give all matters of vital interest.

    Your report intimates that we had only just got the report yesterday and were voting on information which we had not really looked at, which is of course not the whole story.

    I have no problem giving support in principle. What that requires is the courage at a later date to withdraw that support if the situation indicates the idea is not a goer for what ever reasons. As you saw at the Tukituki meeting, HBRC does not lack courage when it comes to telling it how it is to the public.

    kia kaha

    tim gilbertson

  2. Tim,

    To suggest that HBRC Councillors really know dog squat about this proposal — let alone have debated their stance on it in any meaningful way with all the facts and issues on the table — is laughable.

    Further, for a body that SHOULD have been raising serious questions about this dubious project during the recent submissions on the HDC plan change INSTEAD to blithely endorse the park in principle is irresponsible.

    Councillors know full well the valuable political capital and further momentum their “nod” gives Kelt/HDC. What they don’t know at this point is whether the project deserves that nod.


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