Simon Nixon, Businessman: Regarding the Sports Park

I don’t care what is done at Percival Road, but I am not interested in paying for it. I see no personal benefit whatsoever. It will not be used by myself, my family or my friends and acquaintances.

We hear often that there is lack of interest in the consultation process. It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare material, but experience suggests no notice whatsoever will be taken of this submission or any other. My observation is little chance of a change of direction by council.

Opposition to the proposed sports park seems the only wise course of action because anything less will be interpreted as support.

The Hastings District Council has a very unsatisfactory record of evaluating and managing major community projects.

In my 30 years living in the area, I have suffered the ring road, a street system that sent many businesses to the wall, and almost destroyed the centre of town. Citizens argued against Splash Planet when it was first proposed. I argued with Jeremy Dwyer against the shopping malls and one way streets, and was vindicated only a few years later when a conventional street system was reintroduced. The visitor centre was abandoned after spending many thousands of dollars because the trains could not be accommodated in the space available. A bit of research might have anticipated rail passenger services ceasing. My experience with the Airport development revealed two mayors and their Councillors willing to accept bad advice in spite of prior warnings. The parking fiasco in Havelock North is another example of the willing acceptance of bad advice from consultants.

It is the ratepayers of Hastings who pick up the cost, and continue to do so many years after the council has accepted bad advice. Only the ring road seems to have been a wholly council creation.

Consultants are just that, consultants. They are under no financial pressure to be right with their recommendations, and this makes them more ambitious and less responsible. Once they have departed with their money, the costs are born by the community.

Often missing is robust peer review. Instead, this responsibility falls on the citizens who are often more qualified and more motivated to do so than the promoters. Unfortunately, because citizens’ advice is free it mostly seems to be ignored.

A bad history … but a warning on the future of the Sports Park. If those promoting and consulting make a binding commitment to return all moneys in the event the financial and other promised statistics not eventuating, I am willing to give them some credibility. Until then their claims and promises will be treated simply as dreams by people taking no risk but gaining financial benefit for themselves. .

Other than the carefully managed release of favourable information, there is a total dearth of details for people to accurately judge the project. All the critical decisions are made behind closed doors. From the beginning, a blackout has been imposed on all aspects from land sales and purchases, fund-raising, contracts and involvement. Claims are made about the level of consultation; yet it is also clear many sporting codes have not been included or the wrong individuals involved. For instance, one group that seems to have been excluded is rugby league … a game especially popular with Maori, a significant proportion of our population. If the sports codes are not becoming contractually involved then the worth of their word is questionable.

The project seems to be driven more by the opportunistic sale of Nelson Park than anything else. As I understand, payment has not been received in full. The Mall business in Australia is taking a beating. How sure are we of getting paid. The HDC may be spending funds it is not going to get, so all spending should be stopped until these moneys have been received.

Health benefits:
The claimed health benefits offered by the proposed sports park are unrealistic. People get involved in sports because that is their inclination, and if anything, the park will deter them because it is difficult to access. To suggest obesity will be reduced fails to acknowledge the reality of those in this health category. If anything, demographics suggest this problem will get worse. Its doubtful more than single digit numbers in this group will be seen at the sports park.

An aging population:
Hawke’s Bay is aging rapidly, and the park and all its facilities are not going to see a forest of walking frames and wheelchairs. The elderly could be better catered for by making it safe to use the footpaths and cycleways, and ensuring these are provided in the neighbourhoods where these people live.

The park is sited away from the population it is supposed to be serving. Being in the “middle” actually means farther away for almost everyone.

The park will be accessed mainly by motor vehicle because almost no one will be able to walk there, and only the super fit and brave will cycle there.

Future Proof
The sports park project is being undertaken in a rapidly changing economic environment. The impact of rising fuel and food prices is not yet fully appreciated. Significant structural changes are likely in both the world and New Zealand economies. Hawke’s Bay is already a remote and expensive place to get to and there are no actions to improve accessibility. The one chance to open up new markets in Australia by developing the airport has been squandered by inaction.

Population growth is low and Hawke’s Bay is likely to make up an ever smaller proportion of the country’s total population because rising transport costs will make living in areas close to Auckland more attractive.

There is already anecdotal evidence visitor numbers are dropping.

The suggestion public transport could be provided fails to account for the low utilisation of public transport now. Hawke’s Bay does not have favourable geographics for effective public transport with a thin population density spread over a wide area.

Risk Assessment

We are committed to the athletics track because work is past the point of no return. We should now complete this stage, then assess performance to see if the projections are met. If not, then further work should be stopped, because it will be a strong indication the thinking for the concept is flawed.

Then each stage should be delayed until the fundamentals are proven correct.

The enthusiastic talk surrounding the new velodrome appears not to have considered the possibility of a competing facility being built closer to the main population centres north of Hawke’s Bay. If this eventuates, the Sports Park facility could see a dramatic reduction in support and it seems inappropriate to spend multi-millions for a small elite group of cyclists.

For me the main issue is I will not use it. I do not know anyone who will use it. I do not believe the supporters. I think it will become a financial imposition on ratepayers and as a ratepayer I am not willing to contribute.

If Councillors are confident in the research, perhaps they might like to submit their resignations now … to be effective if the sports park imposes a greater burden on ratepayers than currently promised. Or is such a commitment just asking a little too much.

Simon Nixon

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1 Comment

  1. Likewise i will not be using the RSP and certainly do not want to see my rates used for it in any way. Why is it that Mayors always want a monument to their tenure, regardless of cost?

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