Playing politics over new club plan
In a move Mayor Aldo Miccio says is "odd to say the least", Nelson mayoral candidate Rachel Reese has jumped the gun on announcing plans for a new sports clubrooms and community hub in Stoke.
But an unrepentant Ms Reese says she has been advocating for new facilities at Greenmeadows since she was elected, and emphasised this at her campaign launch.
Councillor Pete Rainey, the council's community services portfolio holder, says Ms Reese is trying to make politics out of normal council procedure.
Ms Reese hotted up the mayoral campaign by announcing the project in a lengthy press release yesterday, accompanied by concept drawings given to her by Stoke Rugby Club members.
However, the club spokesman she extensively quoted asked that his name be removed from the statement.
The plan is for a large clubrooms built next to the tennis courts and playing fields, to be used by the rugby club, tennis, and cricket interests, senior citizens, and the Stoke community.
Ms Reese said it was time to see some money coming back to Stoke. Individuals and sports clubs had come up with an outstanding proposal and had been disappointed that it was knocked back when it failed to get Mr Rainey's support during the council's long-term plan process, she said.
But the club and the community hadn't given up. "Some clever minds and people with a real commitment to Stoke have come up with a great design. I've given my commitment to see this development built. It's perfect for the site and for the community."
This morning Mr Miccio said that he, Mr Rainey, and council community projects manager Andrew Petheram had been working with the rugby club for months and he had planned to go public after a further meeting on Monday. "It is a council project, I am the spokesman for the council on this. Rachel has not been involved in this project at all."
The mayor said the projected cost was $1.2 million, 80 per cent funded by the council and the rest by the rugby club and the community in the usual funding mix for new community facilities.
"We've got it put into next year's annual plan to go ahead, so the new council will have this as a sign-off."
If it got final approval from the council, work would begin next year, Mr Miccio said.
He said it was disappointing that Ms Reese had released the news "but it's indicative of her behaviour over the last three years, so it's not surprising".
"It's election year, it's an attempt to find a project that she can try to promote, because she doesn't have any, I assume".
Told of the mayor's reaction, Ms Reese said there might have been private meetings with Mr Miccio and Mr Rainey "as part of an election platform, but that has not been to council".
"There is nothing sitting inside council in relation to that negotiation," she said. "What is going on here, where a mayor and a portfolio holder go off and have private discussions without bringing things to council?
"They don't have a budget to go and spend on their own. It doesn't work like that."
Mr Rainey confirmed that he'd been involved in the discussions with the club and said it was usual for the mayor and the portfolio holder to explore options.
"It's certainly our right and role to try to put things together that are going to help the community, and there's no doubt this will - it's a great concept and it's going to bring together different groups."
The project could not go ahead without coming back to the council for approval, Mr Rainey said.
"This is all normal procedure, if Cr Reese wants to use it for politicking that's entirely her right, but it's just normal business."
Stoke Rugby Club spokesman Mal Lowrie also confirmed the discussions with the mayor and Mr Rainey, and that he'd asked for his name to be removed from Ms Reese's statement.
Ms Reese had only got involved yesterday, he said.
"My foot's not in either camp. I'm only interested in the Stoke Rugby Club and the community of Stoke getting a hub."
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