Sport, like most things, has changed significantly over the years.

In my earlier years, I was actively involved in hockey (played then on grass fields not turf ), both as a player and an administrator.

My club, Akina Rovers, was  strong  and competitive on the field and had an equally strong and active social side.

Fundraising and volunteer work played a large part of all Sport in those days for uniforms, trips, etc. An example …

In the early 1980s, Akina Rovers shared the Havelock North Rugby Clubrooms at Anderson Park and the two clubs worked together to fundraise and extend the Clubrooms to include the Gym area now occupied by Peak Fitness. It was hard work, professional managers and Gaming Trusts did not exist then.

Peach picking, sausage sizzles, Calcutta fundraising nights and other inventive ways to get a dollar were undertaken all by volunteers; but it was fun and it worked. Over time some of these historical necessities of sporting life have been diminished with the availability of gaming machines and trusts and the funds that these provided.

The community gaming trusts exploded onto the scene and provided sizeable funds to be distributed to community organisations. Initially the principal benefactors were sporting clubs and organisations. These funds could be used for such things as salaries, operational costs, capital projects and programs. This created the opportunity for Sports to grow and build facilities, provide professional administration staff, and maintain the costs of participation at stable levels … lower than the actual costs.

The benefactors of the community gaming trusts have changed over time. Whilst Sports initially featured heavily, other community activities such as culture, heritage, environment and health now receive significant contributions. In addition to this, the amount of funds available for distribution by the community gaming trusts has also reduced due to government action, less gaming machines and the general economic downturn.

“The funding available ( in NZ ) from community gaming trusts in 2009 was an estimated $57 million less than it was in 2004. A continuation of this trend will further reduce community funding by an estimated $50 million by 2014.”  $300 million annually in community funding ( in NZ ) comes from community gaming trusts. [Lion Foundation  e-news July 2010.]

“Here in HB ( anecdotally ) there has been a 15-20 % decline of available funds over the last few years, but things are now stabilising .”  [Colin Stone, Sport HB, June 2010.]

From my enquiries, the decline in available funds for sporting organisations in Hawke’s Bay from the community gaming trusts could be in excess of 30% .

Add to this the increased competition for the limited and declining community gaming trust funding between community sectors, new high-value capital projects as against existing operational requests, and you will see a sector that is facing a major funding dilemma.

Who will miss out? How does the community prioritise in the face of declining resources?

Our question has to be: “What can we do about it?”

This decline in funding opportunities for Sport appears to have been visibly evident over the  past few years. You would have hoped that some work was being done on this issue.

The lead organisation in addressing this situation should be Sport Hawke’s Bay, which is the regional body charged with the coordination of Sport in Hawke’s Bay. As such, they need to understand the financial health of each sport organisation in Hawke’s Bay and each of these organisations should then understand the financial health of the clubs they represent.

Sport HB needs to ensure that a Regional Plan of Action is formulated to address the consequences of this funding dilemma. This plan of action should address: fundraising and volunteer support; alternative funding and administration options; potential for a regional funding model; objectives and operations of Sport HB; and so forth.

Over the past decade, Hawke’s Bay and Hastings District Council has had a large number of strategic documents prepared to address the infrastructure of Sport in the District and Region.

These include:

  • HB Regional Sport and Recreation Strategy (Sport HB, 2004)
  • Reserves Strategy (HDC, 2006)
  • Play Strategyn (HDC, 2004)
  • Walking Strategy (HDC, 2004)
  • Cycling Strategy (HDC, 2001)
  • Pools Review (HDC, 2010)
  • Sports Fields & Indoor Facilities Review (HDC, 2003)
  • Recreation Plan Review & Current Situation (HDC, 2007)
  • Regional Sports Park  (HDC, 2006)

[I have not included Napier in the above; they however seen to have a long term strategy based around Park Island.]

In the Recreation Plan Review & Current Situation Assessment-Active Hastings, some items were highlighted:

  • Netball, rugby, soccer and hockey were the most common winter sports;
  • Key barriers to action are: lack of time and/or energy, cost too much, too hard to get there, safety;
  • HB has a high participation rate;
  • HB is identified as the unhealthiest region in NZ (in specific diseases);
  • There is a strong link between high levels of deprivation and health and crime issues.

Other than the Regional Sports Park , no other plans have been put in place to address the issues raised in the Recreation Plan Review (2007).

While rugby was identified as one of the most popular winter sports, no real provision to increase the number of rugby grounds in the District has been made. Since the sale of Nelson Park (Hastings’ premier rugby ground), the only new rugby sportsground is a privately owned and funded ground on Ellwood Road, owned jointly by HB Polo and Hastings Rugby and Sports Club.

The Ellwood ground has recently received some funding from the Hastings District Council of $75,000 for capital development in 2009, and $20,000 towards ground maintenance  in 2010.

With the demographic changes forecast for Hawke’s Bay, climate change, transport issues and the desire to provide a sustainable environment, it is important that the Hastings District Council adopt a Plan of providing sporting facilities close to the communities that will use them. This will enable better utilisation, safer and healthier communities, and reduce the barriers to participation.

Example: Havelock North
Over the past 40 years Havelock North’s population has grown from some 6000 to 11000+. This represents the majority of the residental growth in the Hastings District, but not one new sports ground has been added. In the last 5 years, the local Rugby Club has grown its membership from some 240 to over 400, with significant Junior players.

Example: Flaxmere
Currently in Flaxmere there are six soccer grounds (2 each for Senior, Intermediate and Junior) spread over two parks. If some of these grounds are transferred to the Regional Sports Park, will this cause any issues with transportation, costs, or safety, as all have been highlighted as barriers to participation? Will this preclude Flaxmere soccer players from participating?

Example: Touch Rugby
At present the Regional Sports Park is the intended centre for touch rugby in summer. Currently, there are nine touch rugby grounds in the District (Ron Giorgi Park, Flaxmere-5 and Bill Matthewson Park, Hastings-4). Will these existing grounds not be used for touch once the Regional Sports Park is operational?

How to Remedy?
What we need is an up-to-date inventory fo HB sport and recreation facilities, with an infrastructure plan for Sport – together with a budget for true operating and capital expenditures – that covers the aspirations of all of the  people of Hastings District and Hawke’s Bay. The underlying principles should include: sustainability; building strong communities from within; making Sport accessible; having a viable funding model for Sport.

What might that funding model look like? We need to inventory the potential sources of funding:

  • Central Government;
  • Users (will they need to pay more?);
  • Voluntary fundraising (but implemented in some kind of “one stop” manner – a “combined campaign”);
  • Gambling (and first, we need to decide our desired degree of dependence on these funds);
    Other — e.g., tithing of major sporting events, facilities rental for national/international events.

Looking realistically at these sources, we need to quantify the gap between our Sports needs and ratepayers’ ability and willingness to pay for this sector on an ongoing basis. And we must adjust our Sport aspirations accordingly.

That’s my view. What do others have to say?!

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