Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Waitomo considers sports centre project transfer

Waitomo District Council has conditionally agreed to support a proposal for Council to take full responsibility of the King Country Indoor Sport and Recreation Centre Project, which includes two full-sized indoor sports courts, a fitness centre, meeting space and amenities.

The recommendation to formalise the transfer of the Project, and its development as part of a community and school partnership was presented in a public-excluded part at Council’s 31 August meeting following recommendations made by the Audit, Risk and Finance Committee at its meeting earlier in August.

Following fundraising efforts over several years, The Game On Charitable Trust has agreed to transfer responsibility for the Project to Council. This will include building the facility, and managing ongoing operations.

Ownership would be a shared arrangement between the Council, Ministry of Education (MOE) and Te Kuiti High School Board (TKHS), with Council owning 65% percent of the facility, MOE 24.7% and 10.3% would be owned by TKHS. The 35% ownership share by MOE/TKHS equates to the facility area required by the school and its contribution to the replacement of the school’s existing gymnasium.

Due to commercial sensitivity relating to ongoing negotiations with the selected construction company and the MOE, the initial proposal was delivered in a public excluded part of an Audit, Risk and Finance Committee meeting in August by Steve Bramley, independent chair of the Steering Group established to reset the sport and recreation centre project.

The Steering Group was established by Sport New Zealand and comprises representatives from Trust Waikato, Sport NZ, Sport Waikato, Te Kuiti High School Board, Ministry of Education, Game On Charitable Trust and Waitomo District Council. 

The transfer is subject to  a number of conditions including acceptable agreements being reached between the Council, MOE, and the TKHS that would enable Council to manage the development and to have oversight over the future operations of the facility; agreements being reached for funding support from MOE and TKHS to cover operational costs; MOE and TKHS  agreeing to contribute capital of just over $2.5 million towards development; and an agreement being reached with a construction company to construct the facility.

Waitomo Mayor John Robertson, who is also a member of the Steering Group, says if the project is transferred to Council, it would herald the start of a school and Council, community based shared initiative.

“This would be a regionally significant project. Ultimately, we want the best outcome for Te Kuiti High School, our community, and our region,” he says.

The transfer to a partnership model has the support of key stakeholders including Sport NZ and Sport Waikato.  It also has support from funders, including Trust Waikato, Lotteries and Grassroots Trust.

The Project was first floated as a concept in 2014. The Game On Charitable Trust was formed to advance it in 2017 and was successful in securing $7.5m in grants to fund the stadium build. This includes a capital funding grant of $1.5m from Waitomo District Council.

“The Trust’s capital raising efforts were admirable,” says Mayor Robertson.

“So too was the perseverance of the Trustees who promoted this project for years, including current Chairperson Robyn Lindstrom.  For various reasons, however, getting this over the line required a different ownership and governance structure, a reset business case, and more funding.”

The Mayor acknowledged the efforts of members of the Steering Group. He singled out the contributions by those representing the various national and regional organisations.

“Dennis Turton, CE of Trust Waikato, has been generous with his time and has helped the Steering Group work through funding issues. Matthew Cooper, CE of Sport Waikato, has applied his time, energy, and passion to advance the project at every opportunity. Peter Hannam from the Ministry of Education has taken a key support role to help address required matters by the Ministry.  We are enormously thankful to them all for their guidance and perseverance.”

Mayor Robertson said that Sport NZ CEO, Raelene Castle, and Spaces and Places Consultant, Jamie Delich, have provided all necessary national level support to the project.   

“Ms Castle told me that ‘…some of the best outcomes are achieved when partnerships are developed across the sector, especially with education as this will avoid duplication of effort and increase the likelihood that facilities will be used to their full potential.’  I agree,” he said.

The School Board is represented on the Steering Group by Jo Randle. 

“With the support of Chair Hilary Karaitiana, Jo has been instrumental in us getting to this position,” said Mayor Robertson.

“In addition to the efforts of these members, I thank Councillor Allan Goddard for joining me on the Steering Group and Sport NZ’s appointed Independent Chair, Steve Bramley, who has had to burn the midnight oil on several occasions as we have worked to meet deadlines.”

The Steering Group has recommended a Community Trust with TKHS, Iwi and community representation, in effect a ‘revamped’ Game on Charitable Trust, as the preferred model to govern and manage the operation of the Centre.

Mayor Robertson noted that while there remained issues yet to be resolved the Council’s decision has provided the necessary approval to proceed to resolve such issues.

“Now we will apply our efforts to resolve the remaining project requirements in September, in what will be a very busy month for the Council and the Steering Group,” he says.

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