Alternative use for Naenae reserve proposed
Naenae could become the regional home of lawn bowls, but the project would skittle plans for housing on a Naenae reserve.
Hutt City Council is working on a plan for an indoor rink with facilities to host national and international tournaments, as well as new clubrooms, on Walter Mildenhall Park.
The park is home to Park Avenue Bowling Club and Naenae RSA.
The new facility could house a new club created by the merger of the Park Ave and Naenae bowling clubs.
The future of the park has been up for discussion since a proposal emerged to build social housing on it.
That resulted in a hostile reaction from many locals, who wanted the park kept for recreation.
The driving force behind the bowling hub is Alister Skene, who heads the Hutt City Facilities Trust.
The trust has been charged with upgrading recreational and community facilities in the city.
Mr Skene said the idea is still in the very early stages but he can see many advantages.
Not only would it be a major boost for Naenae, it would create a regional hub for bowls - a sport which needs to modernise its facilities.
Having indoor rinks will open up the sport to a whole new group of people.
The site is ideal, as there is already a bowling club and plenty of parking, he said.
Bowling clubs are struggling to survive and Mr Skene said merging two clubs and building modern facilities is what the sport needs.
He estimated it would cost about $4.5 million.
Naenae club president John Hawthorn said a sub- committee was looking at the implications of a merger and shifting to new premises.
"It is only a mile and half down the road but it will make a huge difference for us."
Members have not yet been asked for their views but he is concerned that if mergers keep happening, there will eventually be too few clubs left to play.
Park Avenue Bowling Club spokesman Trevor Thomas is enthusiastic.
"It is a great idea . . . there is nothing like this in New Zealand.
"Going forward, it has to be good for bowls."
Club members are aware of the plan and are fully in support, Mr Thomas said.
Agreeing on a name for a merged club is often a sticking point but he said members would be happy to allow Naenae to keep its name.
"We would actually have the Naenae Bowling Club in Naenae, which would be fabulous."
Lia Haar-Strang, who has led the fight to stop social housing being built on the reserve, is more cautious.
While bowls is a more appropriate use, she would have preferred something that was more youth-orientated.
"The views I have heard are mixed.
"We do have a lot of youth in Naenae. They well outnumber the target group [for lawn bowls].
"I am concerned we do not lose sight of the need for youth [facilities]."
Mr Skene said in the long run, merging the two bowling clubs would create an opportunity to develop Mitchell Park as a hub for racquet sports.
The existing Mitchell Park tennis and squash centre suffered from a lack of parking and needed upgrading, he said.
The extra land that would become available from closing Naenae would make it easier to develop Mitchell Park, he said.
The city council will next week hear submissions on the proposal to build social housing on Walter Mildenhall Park.