Viewpoint – Sports spending in the spotlight

As the winter sports codes start to click into gear it’s good to see the improvements that have been made to our parks, reserves and leisure facilities around the Coast. In recent times there’s been considerable investment put into upgrading fields at Gulf Harbour, Stanmore Bay, Red Beach, Victor Eaves and Metro Park, similarly with the Leisure Centre on Brightside Road.

Gone are the days when playing rugby, soccer or league at this time of year was like playing on concrete – concrete that would quickly turn into a sea of mud during winter. These days the well-manicured turfs last like bowling greens throughout the entire year.
They don’t come cheap though especially in an area like ours experiencing rapid growth. All the research shows however that the more active we are, the better – for individual physical fitness and mental health and for community togetherness. In these circumstances any money put into recreation is money well spent as far as I’m concerned. Our facilities are now amongst the best in Auckland, a tribute to the efforts of our individual sports clubs who have done so much to develop their respective codes over the decades. And to the parks staff pulling these projects together.

What hasn’t been so nearly impressive though has been the absolute shambles created over Auckland’s large sporting stadiums – North Harbour, Western Springs, Mt Smart and Eden Park. Regional Facilities Auckland is the ‘Council Controlled Organisation in charge of these stadiums (except Eden Park). For the last five years their constantly changing stadium strategy has been at odds with the sporting codes themselves and is expensive, illogical and fundamentally unnecessary. Their sense of entitlement to large sums of ratepayers’ money borders on the arrogant.

While it might be tempting to dismiss this ongoing saga as of little relevance to the Coast, in reality the huge sum of money involved (at least $150 million in an already severely constrained Council budget) would inevitably limit what could be spent over the next decade on far more deserving local sports – funding that is desperately needed and which is far more beneficial to our communities.

While this potential consequence for the sporting codes is bad enough, what has been truly disturbing is the culture that accompanied the ongoing machinations surrounding these stadium dealings – the pandering to well-connected vested interests, the secrecy and the sidelining of the public. For myself and fellow councillor Wayne Walker it is the worst we have experienced, in our view symptomatic of a far deeper malaise within this council administration.

Finally though, all this pales by comparison to the events in Christchurch a few weeks back. The execution of 50 innocent people was such a monstrous act that the sheer scale and evil of it is almost impossible to comprehend. To date it has resulted in us reaching out to our fellow Muslim New Zealanders and to the hope for a kinder, more humane society for everyone. A greater good can and must come out of this terrorist barbarism. We owe that to those who lost their lives and to their families who remain.