Approval to upgrade park seen as positive
A $3.8 million makeover for Trafalgar Park has been widely welcomed as good news and a bold move in the face of global belt-tightening.
The Nelson City Council took most of Thursday to reach a decision over the controversial upgrade, which attracted one of the biggest public responses in years.
Many submitters agreed the park needed improving, but did not back an expensive option to suit the needs of rugby alone.
Thursday's resolution forwarded by Cr Gail Collingwood and approved by the council was for a $3.35 million upgrade, together with design and resource consent costs of $450,000 already in this year's budget.
The council has also signalled it would spend a further $2.55 million on park lighting and seating if the Tasman Makos stayed in the Air New Zealand Cup and the city's Rugby World Cup bid was successful.
The council intends to submit its bid by next Friday's deadline. Tasman Rugby Union chief executive Peter Barr on Friday said the council's decision was bold, given the opposition.
"From our point of view it's a logical decision the council has made. If we are not in the Air New Zealand Cup, we don't need the lights upgraded.
"Rugby is a strong advocate for the park being a multi-use venue."
Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dot Kettle said the chamber welcomed news of the upgrade, particularly in light of the current economic climate.
"The chamber stresses the importance of investing in infrastructure," Ms Kettle said.
But the decision has upset Trish Witt, who organised a 1286-signature petition against the upgrade.
She said she was "horrified" at the lack of understanding the council had shown to submitters, and its "complete disregard" for what the public said.
"I'm more in favour of having the southern link road than Trafalgar Park. I don't know why anyone bothered putting in a submission - it doesn't seem to matter what the public says, because this council does what it wants," Mrs Witt said.
Grey Power Nelson spokesman Errol Millar was not aghast at the decision, as long it did not impact on ratepayers.
"They (councillors) will just have to live with what they've decided, and so will we. You never know, I might even get a new clock out of the deal," said Mr Millar who has operated the rugby scoreboard at the park for 20 years.
The upgrade will be spread over three years, and could mean a 0.92 percent rates increase in 2010-11 and 1.09 percent in 2011-12, depending on any outside contributions to the project and what might be trimmed from the council's budget to accommodate it.
Deputy Mayor Rachel Reese on Thursday said it should be the council's aim to achieve the upgrade on a "rates neutral" basis, meaning the council would have to look at pulling out of other projects.
Mayor Kerry Marshall said the council would be holding a workshop next month to look at all its priorities, and re-assess its capital expenditure programme.
``This is a very important project - it's important to this region and city. The economic climate is an aggravating message, but it's about re-establishing priorities, and there could be some infrastructure works delayed next year,'' Mr Marshall said.
Cr Ian Barker was concerned that many submitters to the consultation process did not want the council to change its priorities. ``I get uncomfortable when I hear councillors say they're going to cut this to get that. If we are going to achieve cuts, perhaps look at cutting staff,'' Cr Barker said.
Mr Marshall said outside the meeting that core infrastructure projects were not at risk, but the council had a big engineering budget and it ``may well be we put off some of these projects''.
He said the council had the capacity to cut costs in areas such as street upgrades, which in the past had been ``overcooked''.
Cr Aldo Miccio, who abstained from voting on the upgrade but has been driving the World Cup bid project, said Nelson would know by next March if it had been named as a host venue, but the public would have a say on the final outcome through next year's long-term planning process.
Meanwhile, the Tasman District Council decided behind closed doors on Thursday to contribute up to $100,000 towards the World Cup bid for Nelson.
Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said there was a lot of debate about getting involved in a bid, and the cost benefit to the council.
It was not a unanimous decision, with two councillors - whom he would not name - voting against spending money on the bid.
The $3.8m Trafalgar Park upgrade will:
- Upgrade the turf and drainage
- Upgrade the pavilion
- Add an electronic scoreboard
- Install new toilets
- Shape the northern embankment
- Replace the perimeter fencing
- Upgrade the entranceways
- Replace the turnstiles
- The cycle track will be retained