On Tuesday, the Regional Council will hear a pitch from the Sports Park Trust for a $2.5 million contribution for the park’s proposed velodrome.
The Regional Council is yet to have a public debate on the sports park. It has done nothing to present its ratepayers with the pros and cons of the initiative. Consequently, HBRC ratepayers outside of Hastings District — those in Napier, CHB, Wairoa — have received no information on the park.
In its draft LTCCP put out for consultation early this year, HBRC mentioned the sports park — in one sentence — as one of several “infrastructure” projects it might consider supporting (with no specific amount signaled). Not surprisingly, virtually no one addressed the matter in their LTCCP submissions. Now it has emerged as a $2.5 million expenditure, partly funded by borrowing and land sales. Yet the Regional Council asserts it has met its public consultation requirements.
Funding of the sports park is proving to be contentious within the Hastings Council, with the Sports Park Trust twice failing to present adequate financial updates reflecting new and significantly different — and less attractive — spending, borrowing and fundraising assumptions. That day of reckoning is now scheduled for December 8. In addition, HDC’s Finance Chair, Wayne Bradshaw is asserting that the Trust is in breach of its funding agreement with the Hastings Council.
Meanwhile, Mayor Yule has indicated to Council that a decision from SPARC on which region will receive its endorsement for a velodrome is not now expected until next year, perhaps as late as June. Without that endorsement, the velodrome is dead.
So … no debate, no serious consultation, possibly no velodrome … then why the rush at the Regional Council to make a decision?
On Tuesday, after watching the flash sports park DVD, Regional Councillors should address and clarify:
1. Why they feel a need to act before HDC itself is satisfied with the Trust’s new financial scenario?
2. Whether they are restricting any funding commitment they might make to support for a velodrome — i.e., no velodrome, no HBRC funding (the same as Unison’s pledge)?
3. What is the contemplated scope of any future public consultation (currently described by staff as relating to the Council’s “Investment Policy”) — i.e., will that consultation seek submissions on the unfinished phases of the park, such as the velodrome, or simply on the funding mechanism (sale of land and borrowing)?
4. Whether they are prepared to contribute subsequent ratepayer funds to the projected operating deficits of the sports park?
5. Whether by making a decision to support the velodrome (and at that amount), are they foreclosing the option to fund other infrastructure projects not yet on the radar that might have broader public support … such as a regional swimming facility?
I’ve seen the Regional Council better prepared to make a $20,000 decision than it is to make this one for $2.5 million.