Councillors wary of bailout

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 24/03/2014
Invercargill City Council
NICOLE GOURLEY/Fairfax NZ
The 2013-16 Invercargill City Council with Mayor Tim Shadbolt at the front.

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Plans by Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt for the city council to take over Rugby Park could be scotched by councillors uneasy about taking on the debt-ridden facility.

Invercargill city councillors are expected to debate the issue at the April council meeting, after council bosses met with the Southland Outdoor Stadium Trust and community funders last month to find a way to bail out Rugby Park.

Mr Tim Shadbolt has been vocal about his support for the council taking over the stadium and said earlier this month that he believed it was "inevitable".

But he may not have the support of his councillors, who seem to be ducking for cover on the issue.

All the councillors spoken to by The Southland Times last week said they did not want the council to take on the debt the stadium was riddled with and if it was presented to them debt free, would be extremely hesitant about the ongoing costs associated with it.

That could be bad news for the Community Trust of Southland, which is owed $750,000 by the stadium trust, and still expect to see the money repaid. The debt is secured against the stadium.

Community trust chief executive John Prendergast remains convinced that the trust would get the money back from the stadium, even if the councillors refused to take on the debt and the stadium.

He would not be drawn on what the community trust would do if the stadium trust fell over and the council refused to take it on.

"It's so hypothetical."

"We don't own Rugby Park at the moment and we have no desire to own it."

However, deputy mayor Darren Ludlow said if the council did not take it on and the community trust was lumped with it, they could consider selling off the stadium or subdividing the land to recoup the money.

Southland Outdoor Stadium Trust chairman Ian Tulloch said he would be disappointed if the council did not help resolve the issues surrounding the stadium.

The council pumped $400,000 a year into the indoor stadium, yet seemed to be avoiding a facility which was just as important to the community, he said.

Councillor and Southland Indoor Leisure Centre Charitable Trust deputy chairman Alan Dennis said the outdoor stadium was "no golden goose".

The two stadiums were "a totally different kettle of fish" and could not be compared, he said.

"I don't believe we should be bullied or rushed into [taking] the stadium."

What the councillors said

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Rebecca Amundsen: "I have no idea, it will depend on the information that we receive."

Neil Boniface: "I am in favour of taking it over, only if there's no debt and if we know for certainly what the liabilities are."

Graham Lewis: "I am against creating a lot of extra debt."

Graham Sycamore: "I'm feeling positive towards the subject if it is reasonable for everybody."

Alan Dennis: "I think the fact that the council should own the stadium is inevitable. I don't believe that we should be bullied or rushed into it."

Darren Ludlow: "It's got to stack up. We are not just going to say yes we are going to take it over."

Ian Pottinger: "I can't see why the ratepayers of Invercargill should be faced with debt."

Peter Kett: "It seems a huge expense for five rugby games."

Lindsay Thomas: "I would like to see the deal first. If it's not looked after it's just going to be derelict."

Lloyd Esler: "It's inevitable, I can't see any alternative other than it just becomes a council asset and I think that's probably the desirable outcome."

Karen Arnold:"I can't understand how we can promote the CBD to encourage people into the city and then say we will set up functions and parties and the like out of the city centre.What are the ramifications, not for rugby but for the ratepayers."

Lindsay Abbott: could not be contacted.

- The Southland Times

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