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Rugby selling up

Carterton rugby club moves to fund hub

ELISA VORSTER
elisa.vorster.age.co.nz

The sale of Carterton Rugby Club’s grounds could prove the make or break moment for a $2 million sports hub that has been four years in the making.

The sports hub proposed for Howard Booth Park in Carterton, named HubCap, would bring rugby, football, squash, bowls, tennis, indoor netball and croquet together at the same venue, as well as other facilities.

Initially, the Carterton Sports and Recreation Trust had requested $460,000 funding from Carterton District Council to help build the hub on the council-owned land, a couple of hundred metres away on Belvedere Rd.

Last November, the council agreed in principle to contribute $25 per ratepayer per annum for two years, bringing its contribution to around $200,000, pending a more detailed business plan before the finalisation of the council’s Ten Year Plan.

However, the agenda for today’s council meeting indicates the council is now anticipating a revised ownership and business model from the Carterton Rugby Club, which would have the club sell its land and holdings to become the principle investor in HubCap.

Carterton Rugby club president, Steve Hurley, confirmed the council agenda was an accurate depiction of what had been a slow and frustrating process.

“We’re continually evolving how we approach this,” Hurley said.

He said selling the club’s land should come as no surprise to its members, as it had been on the cards since March 2017.

“We’ve actually agreed for various reasons that stage one has to be about getting the anchor tenant. Every project like this needs an anchor tenant and everyone agrees the rugby club is the anchor tenant.

“Therefore, what we’ve agreed for the plan to work is that stage one has to be solely about getting the rugby club established at Howard Booth Park.”

Hurley said the meeting with council in November last year resulted in being given a timeframe of three months to present a revised business plan, which wasn’t enough time.

“The timeframes which were put in place were a barrier, so we agreed that we would put off that business plan until February 2019.

“What that will allow us to do is to go away and give us time to put together a better business plan and make decisions and do a little more investigative work to make sure this thing is going to work, both physically and financially.”

However, the delay in presenting the business plan meant the conditional financial contribution was no longer set aside in the council budget, as its Long Term Plan was adopted last month without any submission made on behalf of HubCap.

Carterton District Council communications and engagement co-ordinator Kate Jurlina said today’s council meeting would discuss the anticipation of a new proposal which would see the project privately funded, but couldn’t confirm whether or not funding was off the table.

“If and when a business plan is presented, council would be obliged to look at it.

“I don’t know what that would look like in terms of funding.”

The meeting will also have councillors vote whether to commission an analysis of alternative options for the park – a vote which would come with a $10,000 price tag.

Jurlina said the council’s role at present would involve a consultation process with the community to establish a level of support for the proposal.

This has meant the establishment of a working group of councillors Russell Keys, Jill Greathead and Rebecca Vergunst to oversee the community engagement process.

Hurley said the rugby club’s next step was to meet its members this week to keep them up to speed and discuss what the move would mean for the future of the club.

“The mandate is already there, so there’s no problems with that – it’s now about communication and making sure everybody is kept abreast with where we’re at.”

The council had so far been “very supportive” of the project and expected them to continue supporting the sports hub in some way.

“Because it’s such an important community project, my expectations are some sort of input from the council.

“That may not necessarily be a cash contribution – there are other ways of the council being of assistance to a project like this.”

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