Pohe Island in tug-of-war

16:00, Feb 04 2013
Pohe Island
OLD LANDFILL: Pohe Island with the new road to the new bridge under construction in the foreground.

Pohe Island is fast becoming a political football with disagreements over how its development should be funded and used.

Councillor Brian McLachlan says the Whangarei District Council is spending too much on sports fields and club buildings at the island's William Fraser Memorial Park.

He says the work is at the expense of minor codes such as cycling and core council business such as road safety.

In November the council decided to defer $26.5 million worth of projects to the next financial year so it does not go over its debt budget.

But $1.1m budgeted for sports field development at the park has not been delayed.

This is on top of $608,000 needed to clay cap the former landfill.


A further $1.6m for sports field developments at Springs Flat will also go ahead this year.

Mr McLachlan says $6m worth of roading projects have been deferred instead.

Of more concern, he says, is a development budget for Pohe Island which shows plans to spend more than $3m on rugby, about $1.5m on passive recreation, just over $500,000 on football and under $500,000 each on water sports and cycling.

The Whangarei Old Boys Rugby and Sports Club has been looking to relocate since the council was offered $20m for its Port Rd site.

The sale has not gone through yet but a statement on the club's website says it is moving to the park along with the Northland Rugby Football Union.

But club captain Colin Shirley says nothing has been confirmed and he expects it won't go ahead until the site is sold.

Deputy mayor Phil Halse says the council has not had a formal proposal from the parent body, Northland Rugby Union.

Mr Halse is also president of the Rugby Union but says it is a figurehead role and he is not on the management committee.

He says Old Boys is amalgamating with Marist Rugby Club this season and the vision is for both to be relocated at a central place.

This would free up Old Boys' site for sale and Kensington Park for junior sports, he says.

The development of sports fields on Pohe Island co-incides with clay capping work, and football fields at both Pohe Island and Springs Flat are needed to secure a Fifa Under-20 World Cup game, he says.

Mr Halse says putting sports fields on the park was always part of the plan and it was never intended to be left for passive recreation such as walking and cycling alone.

Whangarei Leader