Trust boss says stadium should repay loan

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 16/05/2014

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The Community Trust of Southland has dozens of regional loans it expects to be repaid, so why should one organisation bail on its commitments and not the others?

That was community trust chief executive John Prendergast's view at the Invercargill City Council draft annual plan submission hearings yesterday.

Prendergast presented on behalf of the community trust on several matters, but the main issue councillors were interested in was Rugby Park.

The Tweed St stadium made headlines this year after it was revealed ratepayers could be the new owner of Rugby Park.

The facility is drowning in $1.5 million of debt and the stadium's owner, the Southland Outdoor Stadium Trust, has been trying to find a solution, including the possibility of it going into council ownership.

The largest debt owed by the stadium trust is a $750,000 loan from the community trust.

Prendergast said it was one of several loans the community trust was owed.

"We have a number of community loans around the region and people pay them back."

Prendergast said the trust wanted to see a solution come to fruition but was not backing down on its loan.

"If we start writing off entire debts then we will have about 20 community loan recipients coming to us and saying ‘can you write ours off too please?' and that is not viable for us and not fair if we start writing some off and not others."

However, the trust would decrease its loan if a solution could be found for Rugby Park.

The trust had decided to wipe $200,000 off when a solution was found for the park, decreasing it to $550,000 paid in $55,000 instalments from 2020, he said.

But, ultimately, the debt lay with Rugby Southland, because the $750,000 was used to bail it out during financial hardship, not the Southland Outdoor Stadium Trust, which it was channelled through, he said.

Councillor Karen Arnold asked why Prendergast considered owning a stadium core council business. Prendergast said it was not "out of kilter" with other council-owned facilities, such as Splash Palace and the Civic Theatre.

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- The Southland Times

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