Stadium refused disaster centre funds

ALANA DIXON
Last updated 05:00 22/06/2012

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Stadium Southland has missed out on funding to become a dedicated welfare centre in an emergency, but yesterday Stadium Southland Charitable Trust chairman Acton Smith said the move was not unexpected.

The trust made a submission to Environment Southland's 10-year long term plan for $680,000 to include capability for the rebuilt stadium to be used as a civil defence emergency welfare centre.

When speaking at submission hearings last week, Mr Smith said although a welfare centre had not been included in plans or finances at this stage, he felt it was something that needed to be discussed.

The cost would have to be stand-alone and a separate cost from the rest of the stadium rebuild, he said.

He asked the council to consider $680,000 in funding either from South Port income or the cruise ship levy.

The regional council also declined the request for $50,000 to include drinkable water at the stadium for use in civil defence emergencies, and suggested it come from any surplus in Emergency Management Southland's 2011-2012 budget.

However, the regional council's acting chief executive Graham Alsweiler said yesterday the council had to prioritise its spending.

Mr Smith said yesterday that he had not heard anything official declining the funding application, and though previous discussions with Environment Southland had not indicated the funding would eventuate, he had hoped it would reconsider.

The idea to include capability as a welfare centre in the event of a disaster came after the Christchurch earthquake, when people were housed in Ellerslie Flower Show tents at Hagley Park, he said.

"That really prompted us to think `What happens if we have a major disaster here, where do we put people?"'

The new stadium, which would be among the safest buildings in the community, was the logical place for a civil defence centre, Mr Smith said.

The trust did not have enough funding to include civil defence welfare centre capabilities itself.

However, the decision to decline the funding request did not mean the stadium would be unavailable as a welfare centre if the region was affected by an emergency, he said.

He understood civil defence organisations had the right to commandeer a public place during a disaster, and the stadium would always be available for that.

"This stadium belongs to the people of Southland and if their need is such that they've got to be accommodated, they would," he said.

Mr Alsweiler said the request for funding was declined because of affordability.

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