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New trustees looking to tap immense potential in stadium

New trust chairman Dick Davison is impressed with the potential at Memorial Park. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV


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Using the Trust House Memorial Park artificial turf to its full potential is the aim of Dick Davison, the new chairman of the Wairarapa Multi-Sport Stadium Trust.

An unhealthy culture, a lack of independence, and a below-average board evaluation rating were some of the findings of an independent review last year into the governance of the trust.

Among the review’s recommendations was the appointment of an independent chairman.

Davison took up the role earlier this month, along with three new trustees, and John Dalziell, who has continued as the Masterton District Council representative.

Mike Knell, the chief executive of the New Zealand Community Trust, is the second independent trustee, psychologist Gary Hewson represents football, and lawyer Jason Carruthers, who is the Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union chair, represents rugby.

Davison said the board is looking to appoint one or two other independent trustees, probably women.

Davison moved to Masterton from North Canterbury in October 2019 and brings an impressive CV to the board.

The 71-year-old is a Nuffield Scholar, has a Masters in Professional Studies: Agribusiness and a Diploma of Valuation and Farm Management, both from Lincoln University, and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Massey University.

“I’m a broken-down sheep cockie, really. But I’ve been a director on various boards of governance and I was councillor on the Hurunui District Council for nine years,” Davison said.

“I’ve also chaired a primary health organisation, a couple of community trusts, so I’m reasonably experienced in community trust type arrangements,” said Davison, who was keen for the trust to move on from recent difficulties.

“What happened in the past in terms of any unhappiness, I probably don’t need to know all the details because as far as I’m concerned it’s in the past. I have no history and no background, and I think that’s part of the reason I am here.”

Davison said the first role of the new trustees was gathering information.

“The first thing that we have to do is to try and understand the financial position of the trust, how the maintenance of turf is organised and paid for, how the use of turf is regulated and how that’s all managed, and whether there are some improvements we can do there,” he said.

“We’ve asked to have a bit of a look at the trust deed because it doesn’t actually identify very clearly in the modern parlance who the stakeholders are.

“We might just clarify the fact that this is a community facility and it’s to the benefit of this community because there’s bit of perception possibly that it’s designed for the rugby and the football community, and obviously they’re the main users.”

The day-to-day administration of the turf will also come under the microscope of the new board.

“At the moment, the rugby union does it through their system and it may be that we contract them to continue to do that, but we are in the process of appointing someone to help us as an independent administrator, contracted by the trust, and that person may or may not get involved with the day-to-day stuff, but will probably have an oversight of it so that they can report back to the trust,” Davison said.

“My intention, and the trust has to agree to this, is to have as much transparency as possible for the community, so any Tom, Dick and Harry can have a look at the financial performance of the trust, how the booking system works and so on.

“I don’t think this needs to be hidden away anywhere and it should be available in the modern world, and that will ease the concerns of some people possibly.”

Having had a good look at the turf, Davison was impressed with the facility, but felt there was plenty of scope for improvement.

“If you spread the lens a little wider and take in the grandstand, the changing rooms, and the bar and so on, they’re owned and controlled by different entities.

“I’ve seen the changing rooms and they’re not that flash and the grandstand as I understand it has had earthquake strengthening.

“In the end, it would be really great to bring the various groups together and have a combined use of the facilities and the ratepayers may be asked to contribute to the upgrading of some of them.

“That’s sometimes a difficult ask, but there are other funding agencies available to enhance the facilities so that they are more user-friendly.

“There’s a bit of lolly scramble with this government handing out cash and it would be a missed opportunity if we didn’t put our hand for some of that.

“I wouldn’t have a clue if we’d get any of it, but we’d be silly if we didn’t try,” Davison said.

The artificial turf has been widely used for games by football clubs, and midweek secondary school and junior rugby has been played on the ground.

Rugby clubs have also trained on the turf, however, there’s a reluctance by the clubs to use the turf for premier and senior reserve games, and that has surprised Davison.

“I think the opportunity to play in the middle of winter on a surface that’s not a heap of bloody mud is great. I think there are some issues around skin burns and so on.

“If you slide across the surface and get a bit of skin burn, you’ve got to be careful you don‘t get that infected.”

Davison said the turf is due for recertification by World Rugby at the end of the year and is due for replacement in five to 10 years.

“We need to get our minds around all those things as trustees but not to interfere with the day-to-day operation of the people who use it and tidy it up, except to require that the facility is well looked after and well used and is accessible to whoever can reasonably use it.”

Davison said with its lights, location near the middle of town, good access, and car parking it’s a very good facility.

“We’ve been given an opportunity to lift this thing to another level. The previous group got the thing in and got it going and that’s fantastic. It’s our job to build on that, and I’m quite convinced we can do that.”

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