Shadbolt calls for Rugby Park help

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 19/04/2014

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The Invercargill City Council should not be the only one bailing out a debt-ridden Rugby Park, the city's mayor says.

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt said the regions' councils should be chipping in to help the home of the Southland Stags.

However he was not expecting money any time soon, he said.

"It should be either the three councils involved or the regional council involved."

But Shadbolt said the chances of that were slim "unless there's a revolution".

Rugby Park faces an uncertain future, with $1.5 million of debt and its governing trust not wanting to continue running the park.

Shadbolt's call has had a mixed reaction.

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said while his area bred most of the Stags, he was unwilling to comment about funding.

"I am a bit scared to comment because I realise there is quite a bit of debt there."

His council had not been approached by the city council, he said.

Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks, who is already involved in the Rugby Park saga through the community trust, said several years ago the idea of identifying regional assets and setting up a fund had been floated, but had not eventuated.

Rugby Park would have fallen into the category, he said.

Shadbolt's comments were valid and it was a conversation that definitely should take place, he said.

"There has been a conversation that has gone on for years that has never really progressed about identifying regional facilities."

Hicks said his council had not put Rugby Park "on its agenda" but was not discounting the idea.

"It highlights an issue that is not just isolated to one facility - how does the regional community fund and make sure all these

facilities are maintained?"

But Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms said Rugby Park did not meet the regional council's criteria for funding.

"What we don't fund are things like sporting stadiums."

The issue had also arisen when the regional council was called on to help fund the rebuild of Stadium Southland.

Timms believed it was unlikely the regional council's position would have changed since then.

But Shadbolt said he did not believe that the city ratepayers should be lumped with the all the responsibility when they were not the only benefactors.

"It's a regional facility and we know that with the indoor and outdoor stadium, 50 per cent of the visitors and the people that come and see rugby games come from outside the city."

Invercargill Licensing Trust chairman and city councillor Alan Dennis said he believed the ideal model was what had happened in Dunedin with Forsyth Barr Stadium, which had received one-off funding from the regional council to toward the build.

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