Gotta appreciate the sight of all those newbie Hastings Councillors pedaling stationary bikes in support of the velodrome bid.

It turns out that pedaling mightily, but going nowhere, is an apt metaphor for the sports park fundraising effort. Indeed, the latest report from the Sports Park Trust, to be reviewed by the Hastings Council on Tuesday, indicates the fundraising is going backwards.

In December last year, Councillors and the public were told that $8.42 million had been raised for the sports park. Of that amount, $3.92 million was reportedly for the netball and football facilities. At the time, Mayor Yule wrote: “We have a very high level of confidence about the $8.4million dollars of fundraising.”

On Tuesday, however, the Council will be told that only $7.27 million has been raised, a shortfall of $1.15 million. The fundraising shortfall — all in the projected quantum required for netball and football facilities — is being managed by deferring the capital works involved. The Council agenda materials include $425,000 in projected funding, which the Council notes “has not been committed,” and $1.2 million in “delayed sponsorship payments” of which only $0.68m is “from sources that have contractual arrangements in place.”

A year ago, only Councillor Wayne Bradshaw had the fortitude to press the Sports Park Trust (and his fellow Councillors) for more transparency with respect to its fundraising and budgeting. His reward for seeking to protect the pockets of ratepayers was to be stripped this term of his Chairmanship of the Council’s Finance Committee.

This week we’ll get to see just how rigorously new Councillors are prepared to scrutinize Sports Park finances, and particularly its fundraising efforts. Or have they already ‘gotten the message’ via the example of Council Bradshaw … keep your lips zipped if you want to get along on the Hastings Council.

It shouldn’t be surprising that in the last year-plus of economic distress, fundraising goals would be difficult, if not impossible, to meet. What would be appreciated, however, is a bit of candor and honesty.

Whether or not a velodrome is forthcoming, the sports park is a reality, hosting a major national athletic event this past weekend. The issue is now financial transparency and accountability. And not just for the elements of the park already committed to.

On Tuesday, judging from the Council agenda, Councillors will be asked to reach into ratepayer pockets for further financial support to make the velodrome pitch (that decision is expected in April). This would be supplemental to funds advanced  last year (from HDC, HBRC, NCC and Unison). As usual, the matter of committing more of your funds will be decided in public-excluded session, unless new Councillors prove to be more pro-transparency than the folks they replaced.

Tuesday’s Council meeting will shed some interesting light on whether the Council newbies represent a heightened sense of accountability … or just more of the same. Place your bets!

Tom Belford

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6 Comments

  1. Im sorry, but i still dont see how we could possibly contemplate spending so much money on a velodrome from an elite handful of athletes. Id love to know just how many cyclists in the Bay specialise in such a discipline? Is sports tourism REALLY a good enough reason to splash out so much of rate payers money? And who REALLY gets to benefit? Do the rate payers? or is it a few motel and restaurant owners?

  2. Councillors are being asked to commit $150K towards the cost of the pitch and Hastings is reportedly up against 9 other centres including Auckland whose super city has indicated a desire to spend up to $260k on their pitch for a huge velodrome project.

    While some of the other bids are apparently less desirable than Hastings (weather, sponsorship support, remote geographical location) the reality is that Hastings has no better than a 10% chance of winning the bid and we are effectively being asked to front up $150k just to be in the process.

    I understand from existing Councillors that they are being asked to look at the $150k as dead money – ie if the pitch doesn’t work out the money is lost. Up for grabs is $7M of government funding.

    It is questionable if this is a good use of rate payers funds but the option otherwise is to have a sports park that will struggle because it has limited facilities.

    The one thing you can be sure of in these recessionary times are that councils all over NZ are looking for major capital works projects to divert ratepayers attention from the poor social outcomes happening in their communities (increased family violence, unemployment, social disconnectedness etc) and kick start their local economies. Most will be committing to the process in the hope that they can convert $150K into $7M which is like Lotto every week – we spend $10 to win $1M or more. Personally I have not met too many winners and lots of people who have invested in Lotto with very limited success.

    The reality however is that these sort of economic policies which upped community debt etc are those self same strategies that caused the economic problems we now face. We are at real risk of just starting the process again as no-one seems to understand that credit will be hard to secure for the medium term and that those who have lots of debt have fewer choices. This is apparent when you look at Hastings huge debt burden and explains why Napier sees the risk of amalgamation being that they inherit Hastings debt.

    I also understand that the word ‘amalgamation’ has now been replaced with the phrase “streamlining local government processes” as it is deemed less contentious.

    Have a great day.

  3. Tim – you only need to look at the Sport Park today to see the benefits of such a facility. The Colgate Games are here with over 7000 athletes. Nearly every hotel/motel is booked out and while in town yesterday there were plenty of them spending money in the local shops.

    I would also think a motel, a retailer,a food outlet are rate payers and also employer others that are also ratepayers.

    re a velodrome – read up about the Southland version – most usage is by community groups and it's at full capacity all of the time.

  4. 'Did you attend the weekends Nationals at the RSP Tom?'

    Is that all Kevin Watkins has to say?

    A glib comment confusing the Nationals with the Colgate Games, which has nothing to do with the veladrome, is as much as we can expect from Father Christmas.

    If this is the quality of debate around the Council table tomorrow we can expect a raise of hands. Shucks what's another $150k when Hastings debt is over $100m.

    I really hope HB gets the National Veladrome because selfishly, as a ratepayer, I want to see some return on the money spent on this project, but the competition is fierce, and the process conducted by HDC has often been disingenuous, and integrity does count.

    By the way, is Cynthia Bowers still mouthing, 'but the RSP will only cost the ratepayer $26 a year?'

  5. As a member of the small group who brought Colgate Children's Athletics to Hawke's Bay (namely the Taradale Athletic Club committee) against the "over my dead body" Hastings Athletic Club I would like to remind those afflicted by "dementia" that about 27 years ago we had children's NI and national events, secondary schools NI and National events and numerous local, regional and national athletic events at Nelson Park. Many other major events also happened here regularly with other sports and youth groups. The cost to the community was minimal. The benefit was enormous. The venue was central, handy to town, to accommodation and to the transport hub. Why are "they" boasting about the RSP as if none of this ever happened until it arrived? I am glad I am not a HDC ratepayer.

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