Red card for pay-to-play

20:08, Oct 03 2012
TOO MUCH: Papatoetoe Sports Trust general manager Justin Leydesdorff wants the Auckland Council to reject a proposal that would see user pays introduced for sports teams using council parks.

Cash strapped sports clubs could be in for financial turmoil if a proposed user-pays scheme for playing fields is introduced.

The Auckland Council is looking to cut 3 per cent from its already stretched budget for the 2013-2014 financial year.

Savings proposals include is charging clubs for adult matches - a policy that only exists in the former Auckland City Council area.

Charges range from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending on the sport.

Papatoetoe Sports and Community Charitable Trust general manager Justin Leydesdorff says charging for ground use simply won't work in South Auckland.

"Sports clubs run on the smell of an oily rag as it is. They don't have the money."


Some clubs in the former Auckland city area might be able to afford fees but few clubs in the south would have the cash, he says.

"There's a significant need in this part of the city to keep costs as low as we can."

Providing parks for sports teams keeps thousands of Aucklanders occupied every weekend and is a social good, he says.

"It's easy to quantify the cost of running sports parks. It's a lot harder to quantify the social benefits."

Other factors also come into play with moves to restrict money that comes from pokie machines, for example.

The trust represents 11 Papatoetoe sports clubs, which was a move to reduce costs and improve organisation.

The popularity of a fund set up by the trust that pays for kids' registration fees and basic equipment shows there's a desire to play sport but a lack of funding, Mr Leydesdorff says.

More than 200 applicants applied for 100 grants.

"Kids out there want to play sport but can't afford it as it is."

Southern local boards spoken to by the Manukau Courier are also against the user-pays proposal.

Manurewa Local Board chairwoman Angela Dalton says it won't work in her community.

"It would impact outcomes around young people. We're trying to encourage people to get out and get active. People are struggling enough in our communities without having to pay for sports fields."

Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board chairman Peter Skelton is also worried about the proposal's impact.

"It was mentioned in our workshops but we told them where to go. It's a no-no."

The council can't start asking sports clubs to pay for using grounds when poor drainage means the fields are often closed anyway, he says.

Mayor Len Brown says efficiencies are needed to keep the 2013-2014 rates increase below 4 per cent.

But the cost-reduction proposals, including user-pays sports parks, haven't been considered by the council yet, he says.

"My approach is to find a balance between savings and investment in the services our communities depend on.

"That is what I'll be proposing in the budget and I am confident that through reprioritisation and working more efficiently we can deliver low rates increases."

The council considers the next draft annual plan in November, followed by public consultation before being adopted next year.

Manukau Courier