Hundreds of people arrived by 9:30am to witness the Council debate the future of the Springfield Golf Course. It was item 10 on a list of 12 recommendations relating to the Long Term Plan made by the Strategy, Policy & Finance (SP&F) Committee in May. The unprecedented crowd waited patiently for an hour and forty minutes before their item finally came up for discussion.
The recommendation to be considered by Council that had been proposed by Shirley Trumper (chair of the Rural community board) at the SP&F Committee in May was:
That the discussion on the future of the Springfield Golf Course be deferred until such time as a full assessment is conducted by Council on a future sports facility that is fit for purpose to meet the future needs of the Rotorua community to go out for full consultation at the appropriate time.
Further delay not acceptable to the community!
This would have given the Council any amount of time to leave the possibility of the destruction of the Springfield Golf Course hanging over the heads of the residents of Rotorua and of the Golf Club. This is simply not fair or acceptable to anyone.
The Council first announced this proposal in March 2020 and asked the community for feedback. They received overwhelmingly unfavourable feedback. The Council then announced in May 2020 that it would not put it our for public consultation after all and it would not be going into the next Long Term Plan. It seems they wanted to give Council staff another three years to wring their hands and agonise about how they could somehow make this unpalatable proposal acceptable to the community. Frankly, this is an impossible task and a waste of time and ratepayer money.
It was a surprise when in March 2021 the Westbrook Sports Precinct was mentioned by the Auditor in the Council’s draft Long Term Plan (LTP) and that $61 million was earmarked for it. This was unusual given that it hadn’t yet been put out for public consultation and hadn’t even been mentioned, let alone debated and voted on, at a public Council meeting.
In April 2021 over 170 people turned out at the Springfield Community Conversation to voice their opposition to the proposal and a couple of weeks later a petition of 5,017 signatures was presented to Council. There is simply no appetite in the community for further unnecessary delay.
Nevertheless the Council staff drafted a detailed and well-written recommendation that essentially tried to buy another three more years. Trumper proposed the briefer, less well-written recommendation that likewise attempted to delay the process, which was adopted by the SP& F Committee. Notably, Crs Kai Fong, Yates, Maxwell, Kumar & Bentley voted against the Trumper amendment (Macpherson was not present).
Council meeting deliberates on 28 June 2021
Mayor Steve Chadwick, Deputy Mayor Dave Donaldson & Cr Raukawa-Tait spoke in favour of the Trumper amendment.
Cr Macpherson said he opposed the Trumper motion and said that new information had come to light from the Saving Springfield Website that was not available to the SP&F Committee. He said that Council staff had identified a “a deficit of 70-80 hours of playing and training time per week (winter)” as a key driver for the Westbrook Sports Precinct. He then referred to a Council Report entitled Sports Field Construction Quality Assessments dated August 2018 which sets out actions that could be taken by Council to raise the carrying capacity of Rotorua’s sports fields by 100 hours per week. This would turn the deficit of 70-80 hours per week into a surplus of 30-40 hours per week at a cost of only $2,119,600 ($2.1 million dollars) to Rotorua’s Ratepayers – without having to repurpose the Springfield Golf Course in the process.
He said if the Trumper motion failed to pass he would move that the Springfield Golf Club’s lease would be extended under the same terms and conditions as present, which received loud and lengthy applause.
Crs Macpherson, Bentley, Maxwell, Kumar spoke against the Trumper motion and in favour of the club’s lease being extended.
Donaldson challenged Cr Kumar as to whether he had a conflict of interest or had predetermined this matter. The challenge was not well received by the audience. Kumar said he did not.
In the opinion of the author Kumar answered the question correctly because he has no interest in the Springfield Golf Course that is any different than his neighbours. He doesn’t have a financial vested interest in the Golf Course. To the contrary, as the owner of the Springfield Superette he stands to benefit financially from the new housing development proposed nearby and from the sports people who might stop at his shop to purchase sports drinks etc.,en route to or from the proposed Westbrook Sports Precinct.
Crs Kai Fong & Yates expressed concerns about unnecessary delay.
The Chief Executive Geoff Williams acknowledged that there was high public interest and therefore needs to be expedited quickly but was unwilling to give an assurance as to a definitive timeline.
Crs Fisher Wang & Tania Tapsell were silent.
The vote was taken and:
Mayor Chadwick, & Crs Donaldson, Raukawa-Tait, Wang & Tapsell (5) voted in favour of the Trumper Amendment and delay; 🙁🙁🙁
Crs Macpherson, Bentley, Maxwell, Kumar, Yates and Kai Fong (6) voted against the Trumper Amendment and delay. ❤❤❤
The matter is now referred back the SP & F Committee for reconsideration with a clear message that the Westbrook Sports Precinct proposal must be expedited. That means if the Council still wishes to advance the proposal to destroy the Springfield Golf Course they will need to put it out for public consultation sooner rather than later so that the public can have their say and the Councilors can make a swift decision.
The next SP & F Committee is scheduled for 8 July 2021 at 9:30am at the Council Chambers (same venue). The public are welcome to attend.