Awhile back, I received this email regarding the proposed regional sports park from Napier Councillor Bill Dalton:
Good Morning Tom,
The NCC has made absolutely no commitment to provide any funding whatsoever towards the so called regional sports park. Moreover I can tell you that there is a clear consensus around the table, that no funding will be provided for stages one and two of the project and that funding for stage three would only be considered if the project gets that far. My personal view is that even at that stage funding from NCC would be unlikely.
There is also a general consensus that no funding whatsoever would be provided at any time for a shortfall in operating expenditure.
Tom – This is my view of where the members of NCC stand after discussions with them all over the last few weeks, therefore they are personal views and not the official view of the NCC.
His message echoes other communications BayBuzz has received from Napier and Regional Councillors.
At the same time, Mayor Barbara Arnott and Regional Chairman Rex McIntyre have been quoted in the press with — shall we say — less than flattering assessments of the sports park. Neither of these two are politically naive when it comes to appreciating the likely impact of their words when uttered to the media.
Mayor Yule protests … “Earlier, they sent me letters of support!”
To which two responses must be made:
1. Letters of “support in principle” are a cheap currency. Elected leaders see nothing but upside to nodding courteously at each other’s pet projects, expecting the others to reciprocate in due course. More often than not, they never have to make good on their “support.”
2. Circumstances change. Mayor Yule’s hallowed letters were carefully crafted to be friendly — and not more (I witnessed the Regional Council’s debate over their letter) — before the sports park concept was placed under intense public scrutiny and the proposal’s weaknesses were fully exposed.
Were Mayor Arnott and Chairman McIntyre trying their best to be both candid and helpful to their compatriot, the following is what I believe they’d write privately today to Mayor Yule:
We commend your vision in putting forward the concept of a regional sports park.
However, pursuing it now, and in a form not yet examined by our respective Councils, is a political, procedural, and substantive mistake that we cannot support.
Strategically planned investment to meet regional needs with respect to sports participation, healthy lifestyles and associated social benefits is something we can all support … assuming that with collaborative deliberation, we can all get on the same page.
Today we are not on the same page:
- We have differing views as to whether the economic circumstances are right for such a large investment and whether ordinary ratepayers with their strained capacities can bear the burden.
- The limited consultation with our respective Councils does not yet warrant the claim that the RSP proposal, as it stands, would best meet our needs from a truly regional perspective.
- Indeed, any plan for facilities should be preceded by a strategy that addresses the need for more physical activity of all kinds throughout our population, not just organized sport.
- Frankly, today the RSP has very little support within our respective Councils.
We recommend that, with full-scale reviews of each of our LTCCPs required next year, we should take that opportunity, and work within that schedule, to get our Councils — and the public — on the same page.
Maybe the outcome will be as you presently are proposing. Maybe not. But whatever approach we come up with after that collective due diligence will be one that we can jointly put before our ratepayers with far greater confidence and unanimity.
We urge you not to press the issue this week, with the likely prospect of failing to achieve a substantial and sustainable public mandate.
Instead, accede to the legitimate concerns that have been expressed and, with our support, return to the task of developing a regional solution over the next year that we can all champion with enthusiasm. We stand ready to announce immediately with you the creation of a joint task representing each of our Councils to achieve this end.
Barbara and Rex
Sometimes it’s best to lead by listening.