Agriculture isn’t the engine of Hawke’s Bay. It’s sport.

Sports in Hawke’s Bay draw an astounding amount of passion, participation and volunteer energy.

This was driven home to me today when I received Sport Hawke’s Bay’s March calendar. Take a look at page 2 here.

I’m not sure that even those directly involved — in everything from bowling to badminton, croquet to canoe polo, surfcasting to softball — truly realize the extent of it. Maybe because so much of it happens under the shadow of the high profile sporting events. March alone in Hawke’s Bay will see big events like the Crusaders vs Chiefs, the Tremains Corporate Triathlon, NZ Horse of the Year, and professional basketball.

Virtually all of this is volunteer-driven. Even wooing the Crusaders vs Chiefs to Hawke’s Bay required the special effort of a determined volunteer … in this case, Kevin Atkinson, a director of the HB Rugby Football Union, who moonlights as a business executive and chair of the HBDHB.

It’s just a pity that the sport community needs to direct so much of its energy into coping with the parochialism of Hawke’s Bay governance. Whether they are competing for playing fields, facilities, event hosting or funding, the various codes and their supporters must contend with councils whose tendency is to ‘look after their own’ regardless of any rational assessment of the region’s true needs, deficiencies, opportunities and ability to pay.

This point was driven home by a letter published Tuesday in Hawke’s Bay Today, written by Malcolm Dixon, principal at Frimley Primary School in Hastings. He writes, in part (here’s the entire letter):

“As a region we need to get down and do some regional strategic planning around sports facilities. Hawke’s Bay will never be a leader while we have the councils pulling in opposite directions. They all need to be in the same canoe the sooner the better for the sake of all of us.”


Mr Dixon was writing in support of the proposed International Hockey Centre for the regional sports park.

Now, personally, I’m not sure whether Hawke’s Bay needs a television-ready hockey field for maybe two international competitions a year more than it needs more hockey fields closer to our own kids’ homes. What’s the priority? Or, is that money better spent on refurbishing community swimming pools and adding a regional aquatics centre. Or, can we have — can we afford — it all?

But today we can’t even have a rational discussion of the matter, because we have too many councils out to score their own goals, while the sport codes run around ragged.

Tom Belford

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  1. Great thinking Tom. As a newcomer to HB you know far more about what we need than us local yokels. And we all know what a tower of political prowess the USA has proven to be in recent years. All pulling in the same direction, yeah right.

    But you should take your argument a few steps further. There would be no need to host a Chiefs vs. Crusaders game at all, if the rugby heads could simply get their act together, and amalgamate the franchises into one big one. Then we'd easily clean up those Aussies and Afrikaaners, right? And think of all the money we'd save on employing scores of superfluous rugby players, coaches, marketers, journalists etc. No need for an audience either.

    I honestly don't know why you haven't made this point already.

    Regards, Bill Sutton

  2. I had to laugh reading the Hawkes Bay Today the other day.

    There was a Letter to the Editor from NCC Councillor Mark Herbert, who wrote that rather than Napier putting money into the $3.51 million hockey facility at Hastings' Regional Sports Park, "the one sporting facility that is missing in this area however is a 50m swimming pool of national standard."

    After getting over the initial shock that the Napier City Council might actually be allowing their elected officials to express their opinions publicly at last I thought, "Hmm, that's not a bad idea."

    A centrally located regional 50m pool complex would be a great asset for the region, its schools and possibly draw further sporting groups to the region who don’t currently visit, as we don’t have a competition sized pool.

    But then I remembered (something that a lot of local officials, media and I dear say a few too many residents appear mildly incapable of): “Hang on, Napier used to have a pool like that!”

    NCC's Onekawa Olympic Pools, with their 50m outdoor pool – a summer haven for residents and the centre of school swimming sports for generations were closed by the Napier City Council almost five years ago now after being allowed to deteriorate to a condition where it became uneconomical to repair and they were demolished.

    Now any Napier school wishing to have large-scale, outdoor swimming sports has to be bussed out to Frimley in Hastings. Sun-loving swimmers head for the beaches (the biggest proportion of safe swimming ones lie within HDC jurisdiction) or head to the much smaller Ocean Spa.

    Councillor Herbert, now in his fifth term – that’s 15 years’ worth of council-ing at the next local body election – was on the Council when the decision was made to close the outdoor Onekawa pool complex. His idea has merit, but the history behind it does not.

  3. I can't believe the small minded comments of 'councillor' Bill.

    Thank goodness for people like Tom who come to Hawke's Bay with outside experiences, an open mind and a different perspective. I would have thought we would be welcoming diverse people to the Bay to share their knowledge and add to our community. I guess you're a second rate citizen in Hawke's Bay if you haven't been here for 10 years – or is it 20 years… when do you get to have a say on what happens in our region? I guess you couldn't possibly add anything to help the region if you haven't lived here all your life. Or perhaps that's the problem.

    If you take this thinking a little further, wouldn't you say that Maori would be the best people to know the right direction for HB to move forward? Haven't they been here the longest? I guess this leaves the Napier City Council a little short of in-house experts.

    Sport is an opportunity for our region to connect to get the best for our community. We don't have the Hastings Hawks or the Napier Magpies… so why do we have two councils? It's just a shame that my kids are going to miss out on accessing the types of facilities and opportunities they deserve because our councils are more concerned with fighting than with leading the region as an integrated, effective whole.

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