Greytown’s rugby and bowls grounds. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES

 

MARCUS ANSELM

marcus.anselm@age.co.nz

 

South Wairarapa councillors will back a multi-million-dollar gymnasium upgrade for Greytown’s Kuranui College but the future of local sports clubs remains uncertain.

A late-night debate on Tuesday in front of a sizeable, vocal public gallery in Martinborough ended with draft resolutions on SWDC’s annual plan proposal for recreational space in Greytown.

The authority’s decisionmakers meet next Tuesday to resolve to support a project at Kuranui College.

However, the proposal to buy land used by the town’s historic rugby and bowls clubs looks unlikely to pass muster.

The council’s annual plan asked if the public supported council protecting more green space for Greytown.

A second question asked if there was support for a sports and recreation hub concept, including the purchase of the rugby club and bowls club grounds in East St sports paddocks, and the school’s request for gym funding.

The debate saw councillors divide the sports hub proposal into constituent parts.

Councillor Rebecca Fox said she backed Mayor Alex Beijen’s suggestion to vote on each part of the sports hub – each ground and the gym – separately.

Council then spent close to three hours debating the resolutions.

They eventually backed the annual plan proposal to upscale the school’s gym, to the tune of $1 million. Greytown does not have the same amount of recreational space as its neighbouring towns within the district, Featherston and Martinborough.

Both sports clubs had recently sought council assistance with rent after the removal of a subsidy from their landlord, the Greytown Trust Lands Trust [GTLT].

Council granted money to cover rent support to the clubs via the Greytown Sports and Leisure Society [GSLS] body in March.

SWDC officials said the land housing the rugby and bowls clubs had been rezoned as residential in 2004.

A majority of councillors agreed that green space needed protecting in Greytown.

Eight councillors voted to back the proposal. Cr Brenda West of Featherston abstained.

“I don’t believe that [buying] the land in question may necessarily be the right thing to do.”

The two clubs have been open in the town for more than 100 years.

Greytown is New Zealand’s second-oldest rugby club and has played on the same turf since the 19th century.

But alternative arrangements may now need to be made after councillors sought to seek a different route. Greytown ward representative Alistair Plimmer was the lone voice in favour of keeping the deal as proposed. “We hear a lot about covid-19 and the impact on our society. We’ve heard from some pretty learned people [the effect] that trauma has on a community, and let’s face it, our country has been traumatised.

“But if we get rid of recreational land, that can help the mental wellbeing of a community, what does that say about us as councillors?”

Ross Vickery said he did not think a land purchase was prudent in the covid-19 aftermath.

“This will not create jobs, it won’t stimulate our economy, it’s just a bit of churn from one landlord to another.

“We would have to look at our responsibilities to our ratepayers, all our ratepayers, if we considered spending like this.” Beijen said the proposed deal showed “the perils of relying on another organisation to provide a long-term solution”.

“We put our community sports at risk.”

Martinborough ward councillor Pip Maynard also said the land offered may not be the right green space.

“We still need to be making sure we make the right decisions for everyone in the South Wairarapa district.” Harry Wilson, SWDC chief executive, said a decision not to include the land deal in the annual plan delayed the fate of the sportsgrounds.

Their future would fall to the council’s long-term plan processes, if the land had not been sold by then.

“It does give you time to look at other green space that may or may not be suitable,” Wilson said.

“But the risk is you are leaving the discretion to sell that land with the Greytown Trust.”

Councillors will resolve on Tuesday not to proceed with buying the grounds, and to enter into discussion with GTLT over other ways to buy the land, with a view to consulting the public again, as part of the long term plan. – NZLDR



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