Nelson risks going backwards with loss of events - Miccio

Last updated 16:12 17/02/2014

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OPINION: It's been almost six months since the local body elections and I've been busy settling back into "life after council" with various business projects underway, together with a fresh focus on both existing and new community roles.

I continue to enjoy my role as the Nelson Marlborough Falcons football team chairman, and 2014 sees the beginning of my sixth year as trustee on the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust.

I am also relishing a new role as a trustee for the Nelson Tasman Region Hospice Trust Board.

I've been busy travelling to Europe, Asia and throughout New Zealand for business, but more importantly I've managed to enjoy time off in Nelson with family and friends over the holiday.

Despite a busy schedule, I've still had time to keep an eye on the Nelson Mail headlines and there has been one in particular that has really grabbed my attention, so much so, that when I was approached to write a piece, it was an opportunity I knew I had to take advantage of.

The headline I'm talking about focuses on a Nelson City Council decision that I still hope will be reversed.

Over the last three months it's been the talk of the town, and almost everywhere I go I encounter people who have questioned the decision, it would be great if this article continues to prompt some strong debate.

You've probably worked out that I'm talking about the closure of the Trafalgar Centre.

In April 2013 and again in August of that year, as a council we made a decision to keep the Trafalgar Centre open. We reviewed all the engineering reports, assessed the risk factors and legal advice and decided to follow the best practice guide that other New Zealand cities have in place.

In Wellington, when a building falls below the national legislative standard of 33 per cent, it is kept open, but with signage and advice for the public to enter at their own risk. This policy had been in place for the Town Hall, the Wellington council chambers and mayor's office and now the same applies for the State Opera House.

In my opinion, they are taking a responsible position with their public spaces. Their city council is being practical, prudent and commercially sound, ensuring plans and budgets are in place to strengthen, mitigate risk or rebuild.

This in my view would be a better approach for our council to take, and actually was the approach Nelson City Council was taking until they made such a dramatic U-turn late last year.

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What a shame that after six years of successfully building Nelson as a major events centre, attracting Rugby World Cup, Cricket World Cup and numerous arts events, we're losing out to Blenheim and other cities. As an example Billy Connolly recently decided to head across the Whangamoa.

Additionally it looks like we will no longer benefit from the Joseph Parker heavyweight international title fight (versus the Brazilian heavyweight champion). This was to be televised throughout the world, including an expected audience of 30 million Brazilians.

At exactly the time when the New Zealand Government and John Key have been heavily promoting and marketing our nation to Brazil, Nelson was going to take centre stage, but sadly not now.

Who snapped up the event? You guessed it, Tim Shadbolt, Mayor of Invercargill.

Another major event we are losing is Stage Challenge. Thousands of high school students from every school in the top of the South Island spend months preparing for this.

It's the highlight of their last year at school and something many plan for when they first arrive at college in year nine. Now it's cancelled for the first time in 20 years. Some students are even talking about street protests. What a massive loss, it hits hard at the fabric of our society here in Nelson, affecting our homes, families and children directly.

Lastly, let's not forget the Giants. Will they survive three seasons at Saxton Field? I, for one, hope so, as they have been singularly the all-round best performing franchise in New Zealand for over 25 years.

What stumps me is "why"? As none of this needs to happen. The centre could be reopened today if the council reversed its decision.

Most other New Zealand cities are not taking such drastic action, and there's no legal requirement for its closure. The engineering advice is debatable with conflicting reports, which at worst say our Trafalgar Centre reaches almost 33 per cent of code.

I know that some councillors agree with my opinion that the sensible thing would be to make plans now to put a budget aside to rebuild or strengthen the building, but in the interim keep it open.

I continue to implore my former council colleagues and newly elected councillors, who campaigned with me, to continue to make Nelson an even better place for future generations. I've asked them to look really hard at this and do the right thing and the smart thing, that being to reverse the decision to close our events centre.

It's important now more than ever for Nelson to keep the ship on course. Having made huge gains over the last six years, we were putting our city back on the map and it's important we don't go backwards.

It's about attracting and providing for families, business and investment. It's about making Nelson the best place it can possibly be. The easy decision is to close doors; the hard part is working out how to keep them open.

  • Aldo Miccio was mayor of Nelson from 2010-2013 and has various business interests and company directorships locally and nationally.

- Nelson


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