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Showgrounds board visions

Solway Showgrounds manager Sue Tytler and A and P Association president Tina Nixon are looking for a new board member. PHOTO/TOM TAYLOR

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The Masterton A and P Association board is on the hunt for a new member.

President Tina Nixon said the association was looking for a person to complement the skill set of existing board members and bring Solway Showgrounds back into the public eye.

The five-person board had been one member short since Guy Williams’ departure last year, although former president Peter McWilliam had agreed to remain on for another year.

“We’re very much a working board,” Nixon said. “You’re an active member in the actual process of running the organisation.”

While the board members were sometimes involved in the day-to-day running of the showgrounds, Nixon said they aimed to give manager Sue Tytler more autonomy in her role.

“These organisations are horrifically expensive to run, and Sue’s done an incredible job of turning that around for us.”

Tytler used her background in managing racecourse and equestrian events to the association’s advantage, bringing it back into the black after years of losses. Her equestrian experience catered to one of the showgrounds’ two main drawcards – the other being motorhomes.

The motorhome market led to further opportunities by exposing people to the showgrounds, Tytler said.

“People might come here and say, ‘this would be great for a wedding’. People love coming here – they’ll come for a night and stay for a week.”

The relocation of the Wairarapa Farmers’ Market from the Farriers car park back to Solway Showgrounds had a similar benefit.

“It’s great because it gets people in the gate every Saturday, and exposure brings opportunities,” Tytler said.

Nixon said the markets had grown steadily since starting up at the showgrounds post-lockdown: “It’s just gone absolutely gangbusters.”

Another initiative to bring people into the showgrounds was the establishment of an area within the main ring where people could let their dogs run off-leash. Masterton had no purpose-built dog park, Nixon said, but for $35 – the price of an annual A and P subscription – dog owners could use the grounds as often as they liked.

“That’s proven to be quite popular, especially among dog breeders and owners of multiple dogs.”

An early indication of the dog park’s success was an agility competition weekend that had been booked at the showgrounds.

While the board was open to all kinds of events, Nixon said it was not their role to be event managers.

Implementing management plans for existing facilities would be the greater priority for any new board member. Facilities included the many buildings on site that were leased by community organisations, and the grandstand itself, all of which formed part of the Solway Showgrounds historic precinct.

“We need a board member who has those fresh eyes and can have a think about how we do that,” Nixon said, adding that someone with high-end facilities management experience would be desirable.

Nixon said it was important for members on any board to think about their own succession.

“I’ve got a limit on all boards I’m on. It’s five years and see you … One of the struggles I have had over the years is people staying in positions too long. That’s in politics as well. There’s a point where you become less effective. You need constant renewal.”

Tytler said that anyone was welcome to apply for the role.

“We need to have a mixed bag because then those people have mixed visions and different ideas.”

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