Editorial: A nudge over the finish line

Last updated 05:00 12/05/2014

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OPINION: Timing matters.

Had the Government announced at the start of the Stadium Southland rebuild that it would put forward several million dollars for the cause, the news would perhaps have been duly noted rather than headline grabbing.

Something to be getting on with, we would have said.

But when Prime Minister John Key opened the $43 million stadium yesterday, and announced that maybe he and Finance Minister Bill English could have a chat and "finish the job for you", the reaction was stronger.

The $5 million shortfall was, after all, what stood between the Southland Indoor Leisure Centre trust and a debt-free facility.

It hasn't passed without comment that when the trust approached the Government in 2102 about $1.5 million funding, it was turned away.

Or that just the day before, stadium general manager Nigel Skelt had said Key would not be asked for a handout at the opening, because the stadium team had moved on after the previous refusal.

So yesterday's announcement could be portrayed as a change of stance or circumstances, or the result of some judicious lobbying, or a matter of political timing - getting maximum bang for the buck, during an election campaign.

Key dismisses the suggestion, lightly scorning the suggestion it would sway anybody's party vote and he's probably right.

It could even be turn about. Key did point out that prior to the past Rugby World Cup the Government was putting money into other stadiums around the country.

In any case, gifthorse dentistry isn't required here; the pledge represents it's a nudge over the finish line and all the more welcome for being deserved.

The stadium project was a brutally demanding one, not only because of the huge cost escalations but also the adherence to extraordinarily scrupulous building safety standards.

Earlier on we described this as "penitent protectionism" after the sadly jerrybuilt first stadium collapsed under snow in 2010.

The foreshadowed Government assistance can be compared and contrasted with the $2 million stadium donation from an individual - Invercargill's pugnacious philanthropist Louis Crimp.

That was simultaneously a remarkable gesture and an opportunity to deliver an enema to one of his less favourite organisations, the Invercargill Licensing Trust, by making the removal of ILT signs a condition of his donation.

At least the Government's donation isn't going to come with such strings attached.

In recent years Southlanders have felt the many benefits of a fully functioning indoor stadium, only to have it it torn from them.

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The rebuild process was painfully slow and the cost escalations were hard to take. But public patience did hold up. It had to.

With winter coming we now have a resolutely well-built stadium. As the song says, "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow . . ."

- The Southland Times

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