Confirmation of a controversial naming decision at Lloyd Elsmore Park’s new athletics track has been met with rejection and bitter disappointment.
The move has caused a $100,000 funding loss and has put in jeopardy a $22,000 annual sponsorship of the athletic club.
The Pakuranga Community Board’s unanimous recommendation to name the track after Ron Johnson and the pavilion after Yvette Williams was initially reversed by Manukau City Council, naming the track after Yvette Williams and the pavilion after Ron Johnson.
The council confirmed its decision last week.
Community board chairman Ross Warren says they don’t accept the decision.
"The council’s handling of this issue has caused much stress and anxiety to two great international athletes," he says, "while putting extra costs on ratepayers of at least $100,000 due to loss of crucial sponsorship."
The board worked closely with the Pakuranga Athletics Charitable Trust in arriving at the names.
The proposal included the placement of plaques on the long jump facility next to the pavilion marking Yvette’s gold medal and world record-breaking jumps.
"The board and the trust considered that this arrangement gave maximum prominence to the name of Olympic athlete Yvette Williams and also suitably honoured an outstanding international master athlete and local benefactor, Ron Johnson. The athletes concerned were completely satisfied with these arrangements."
Mr Warren has the full support of the Pakuranga Athletics Charitable Trust who were "bitterly disappointed" with the policy and activities committee’s 7-6 vote.
In a statement the trust says a "bitter blow" came from Pakuranga councillor David Collings.
"He voted against the motion after having previously voted in favour at both the community board and the previous policy and activities committee meeting.
"While acknowledging and respecting the great achievements of Yvette Williams the trust’s loyalties lie with the versatile masters athlete Ron Johnson, the current world masters decathlon title holder."
Naming the track after Ron would recognise his athletic achievements as well as acknowledge the generous sponsorship he provides to the athletic club and community, the trust says.
Trust secretary Linda Mitchell attended the meeting and felt some councillors were trying to belittle the importance of this sponsorship.
Trust members say they are at a loss to understand how the council could overlook the wishes of the club.
Mr Warren says the community board will continue to refer to the "Yvette Williams Pavilion" and the "Ron Johnson Track".
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