Surely this would have to be one of the greatest winters Invercargill and Southland have experienced in the past two decades, and I'm not just talking about the weather, writes Tim Shadbolt in Southern Focus.
The plethora of events taking place in the city over the past few days has been absolutely sensational.
When the Invercargill Licensing Trust, Community Trust of Southland and Invercargill City Council raised enough funds to build New Zealand's first and only indoor velodrome, we had no idea how valuable this regional sporting facility would become.
Not only did it attract cyclists from around the world, but it is also used for netball, basketball and tennis. At present, it still seems unbelievable that we are hosting an event as prestigious and exciting as the UCI Juniors Track World Championships.
The grand opening was sensational with the focus on children; bright, colourful, fit, healthy young athletes of the future, carrying flags and gifts. Ngai Tahu and South Africa provided the spiritual heart of the welcoming ceremony and the officials kept their speeches thankfully short. It was an opening of colour, dance and music and the racing itself was just as dramatic.
This was followed by the ticker-tape parade that not only celebrated the success of our Olympic heroes but, when combined with representatives from 24 countries attending the UCI Juniors Track World Championships, the parade was transformed into a celebration of all sport.
The Olympic Games are, without question, the greatest sporting event in the world and, with seven of our Olympic team coming from little ol' Invercargill, it was inspirational.
But despite the euphoria and triumph, there was an elephant in the room - the unfinished stadium skeleton of Stadium Southland, which was supposed to open in March, but is now facing financial challenges.
As we prepare to host the Graham Henry tribute dinner and look forward to the Aussies fighting desperately to beat the All Blacks tonight, we should all feel warm and fuzzy about sport.
So perhaps now is the time to debate the complex issue of who should pay for the sporting heart of Southland.
Far greater numbers of Southlanders attended events and attractions in the stadium compared with Splash Place, Rugby Park, the velodrome or any other sporting facility we have here in Southland. Until now, there has never been an issue because the big three financed virtually everything. The rebuild of Stadium Southland came out of the blue. Louis Crimp donated $2 million, but it was not quite enough to cover the cost increases caused by fallout from the Christchurch earthquakes. We have little choice but to widen the net of contributors and I'm sure if we are honest and fair in our deliberating we will get the job done.
Yet another philosophical challenge has been the vexed question of “who owns the water?” It is a debate that has been fought out in the courts of Canada between forestry companies and energy companies. Both sides of the debate agree that, while the water is rain coming down from the clouds, nobody owns it. Unfortunately, as soon as that raindrop hits the earth the question of ownership becomes highly complex.
The forestry companies claim that, according to the laws of nature, the roots of their trees suck up as much water as they need and therefore they own the raindrops that hit the earth. In direct opposition the energy companies are saying “we invested in the dam and the hills and valleys were devoid of trees, so that the raindrops trickled down the tributaries into our dam, so that we could generate electricity”. Therefore, they argue just as passionately as the forest owners, that they own the water.
We are facing a debate that will probably be just as intense, the question of who should pay for Stadium Southland.
» Tim Shadbolt is the mayor of Invercargill.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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