17 Feb 2020

Yarrow Stadium upgrade funding application request galls sport groups

3:21 pm on 17 February 2020

Taranaki sports organisations are crying foul over being asked to back funding applications for the $50 million upgrade to Yarrow Stadium that they did not support in the first place.

Seating in the West Stand will be out of bounds.

Seating in the West Stand will be out of bounds. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

They say the request from Taranaki Regional Council - which owns the stadium - is a slap in the face for those who favoured a cheaper repair job and a commitment to a genuine multisports facility.

Community sports groups were outraged when the council signed off on the $50m repair and upgrade of quake-prone Yarrow Stadium after discovering a basic remediation job would only have cost $36m.

The extra $14m in upgrades would mostly benefit professional rugby.

In the latest development, the council asked in an email for some of those same community sports groups to support applications for Lottery funding.

Central Football chief executive Darren Mason said it would not be backing the move.

"Our position hasn't changed so we're not supportive on that spend and not supportive of them tapping into Lottery funding to offset the ratepayer burden.

"We appreciate that they are looking at other avenues to fund it but it's almost robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Mason said any successful bid for Lottery funding would deprive other groups of desperately needed funding.

"That's money that could be used for various other things and I'm not just talking about sport and I'm certainly not talking about Central Football, but if that sort of money is going to be spent on the likes of Yarrow Stadium then that funding is not available for those organisations to tap into to deliver a multitude of other programmes and other things."

Hugh Barnes of the Taranaki Sports Collective, which represents 15 regional sports organisations, has been a vocal critic of the stadium upgrade and said the council email did not make clear what the extra funding was for.

"It could be that they are trying to go for the $69 million [option] which they indicated that they would possibly seeking that funding for, but it could be that the price is coming in above the $50 million and they actually need more money to do the repair."

Taranaki Synthetic Turf Trust member Hugh Barnes says the region is chronically short of hockey fields and teams from New Plymouth have to travel to Stratford for training.

Taranaki Synthetic Turf Trust member Hugh Barnes Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

South Taranaki mayor Phil Nixon, who also lobbied against the costly upgrade, also received the email which he said was ambiguous.

"Straightaway I wanted some clarification on it so I got back to the TRC because we wanted to know what we would be supporting funding for."

Nixon said he now had a commitment from the regional council that any funds raised would be set against the rates take, but he was also worried about the Rugby Union's recently announced Review of Rugby and what implications it might have for the Yarrow Stadium project.

"It's a changing world with a lot of these things and I mean Japan is also now bringing in a competition.

"All these things are going to make a difference and I mean we only have to look at what happen in Waikato, you know, towards the end of last season when they closed one whole stand.

"So I think there are some warning bells out there for what's happening in the future."

In a statement, regional council chair David MacLeod said easing the rates burden was the sole focus of its quest for external funding and it was not pursuing funds for the $69 million upgrade option for Yarrow Stadium.

MacLeod said it was too early to determine what, if any, impact the Review of Rugby would have on Taranaki but that the council remained convinced that a stadium with 8000 covered seats in two stands was required to meet its vision of Yarrow as an international events venue.

Mr MacLeod claimed one of the three South Taranaki seats on offer at the council.

Regional Council chair David MacLeod Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Over the next 25 years, residential ratepayers in New Plymouth are set to pay a flat $70.34 levy per year excluding GST towards the stadium repair costs, while commercial and industrial ratepayers are being levied by land value plus a $150 fixed charge - most will pay between $200 and $600 a year, excluding GST.

All Stratford and South Taranaki ratepayers are paying $47.30 annually, excluding GST.

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