Council eyes sports control

Kihikihi Rugby Sports Club from above.

Waipā’s 17 ratepayer-owned sports fields could soon be managed by the council rather than the clubs which lease them.

The proposal was considered by the council’s Service Delivery committee on Tuesday after The News went to press.

Part of the plan would involve council employing its own sports liaison officer and negotiating short-term leases with clubs whose existing agreements end before 2027.

Brad Ward

Sports affected by that include those using Te Awamutu Stadium, John Kerkhof, Pirongia, Tom Voyle, Albert, Anchor, Castleton, Sherwin, Cambridge Memorial and Athletic parks.

Kihikihi Domain, Victoria Square, Ōhaupō Memorial and Leamington parks have leases expiring between 2031 and 2039 while the Kaipaki Centre’s lease runs through to 2061.

Community Services manager Brad Ward told the committee if changes were not made to the current model, council would have to buy more sports field to cater for demand.

Already some sports are struggling to get access to fields. He cited the example of lacrosse which uses a field in Tamahere because nothing is available in Waipā.* (Lacrosse is now played at Albert Park in Te Awamutu)

The News understands some sporting clubs are not impressed with the proposals, particularly those that have invested heavily in facilities they manage for the council under existing leases. It would potentially take away a revenue stream they rely on to fund their activities.

The current Waipā model is unusual, said Ward. Most medium to larger sized councils manage and maintain sports fields themselves.

‘Owzat!: The lease at Albert Park in Te Awamutu runs out this year and the council would look to negotiate a short-term arrangement. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

Lessees in Waipā manage field renovations, maintenance and bookings.

Council does the mowing of lawns and visitor infrastructure m.

Ward said the new staff member’s job would be to focus on working with sports clubs to build alignment and efficiency, develop a greater understanding of their needs and to scope a future lease model.

“Staff wish to reiterate no matter what the future lease model looks like, it must be structured in a way that meets clubs’ needs in terms of adequate sports fields available for the hours required.

“It is also anticipated that existing facilities (clubrooms etc) remain for the sole use of the respective clubs, ensuring clubs can continue to consider their current sports fields their ‘home base’ if what is what they desire,” said Ward.

The council’s project team did not undertake a community-wide consultation, instead targeting community and user views via the council’s two community boards and surveying park users.

Kaipaki Centre, where cricket is played, has a lease through to 2061. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

Most sporting groups wanted to retain the current system.

“Maintaining the status quo would continue inequitable access to sports fields for all codes and would not allow for best practice sport field management across the network,” Ward said in his report.

However, given the opposition staff recommended delaying the move to put all fields into council management immediately.

“Council staff consider the proposed approach a pragmatic solution to work with lessees and other sport providers to ensure their needs continue to be met so they can focus on the delivery of sport and recreation, with council providing best practice sport field management,” said Ward.

*This article changed to reference lacrosse is played in Te Awamutu.

New council-developed fields at Cambridge’s John Kerkhof Park where leases expired two years ago. Photo: Mary Anne Gill.

 

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