Hub a lesson in collaboration

GORDON BROWN
Last updated 07:57 22/07/2013

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Wednesday's launch of the proposed Clifton Park sports and recreation hub was notable for a few things.

It wasn't just the signing of an agreement to move a step closer towards the hub.

The role of the major trusts in the project, which went way beyond just offering funding, was especially significant.

All agreed this was a project whose time had come. Clifton Park was badly underused and it was crying out to be developed.

That was obvious. What wasn't so easy was getting the necessary money to make the dream become a reality.

It was the Waitara Gymnastics Club which first saw the possibilities and it asked the New Plymouth District Council to help set up a regional gymnastics centre there.

The club, under the expert coaching of Shirley Baker, has long had an excellent record in producing champion gymnasts.

The concept was cautiously welcomed. At this stage that vision was to be expanded.

Momentum was building and after a few inquiries the focus was on the future.

In 2011 clubs from netball, rugby league and basketball joined the school and the gymnastics club to consider the idea of sharing resources and facilities at the park.

A series of community meetings and an assessment of the existing facilities then took place.

But still, the all-important issue of funding remained a problem.

In Taranaki, when it comes to wanting funding for a good cause, the name at the top of the list is the TSB Community Trust.

If you live in central Taranaki, the area previously serviced by the Taranaki Electricity Power Board, then you can also apply to the Taranaki Electricity Trust [TET], which gives millions of dollars every year to worthy causes.

Fortunately, the TET area includes Waitara.

Once contact was made with representatives of both trusts, the dream of a sports hub moved into the next phase - and it happened in a way which was a big change for both trusts.

That's what makes this project so significant.

TSB Community Trust's livewire manager Maria Ramsay explains:

"We worked with the Waitara community on this in the early stages, rather than being simply there as the funder. We can supply so much more to the community than just money.

"Obviously that's pretty important but we can help with organising, training and providing expert advice. That doesn't mean the staff are giving the advice.

"We've helped by bringing in lawyers to advise on the constitution right at the beginning to make sure all those things are right."

Expect more of the same in the future, she says.

"It's definitely the way the trust would like to work. We want to work with groups early on so that a lot of the necessary work is done then.

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"It's better that way than getting an application in for a million dollars for a project and that's the first we've heard of it."

Ramsay says the extra assistance is available to all.

"For example we can provide training opportunities for the smaller clubs as well."

She also says the project is a good example of the trusts and the council working together.

"You can achieve an awful lot more by doing that. I think there is potential for us to do more of that."

TSB Community trust chairman Hayden Wano acknowledged the co-operation that had taken place between all parties concerned.

"The Clifton Park project has been very much the result of a lot of collaboration.

"The joint funders are New Plymouth District Council, the TET and ourselves. There's more we could do in that regard. We are already sharing lots of thinking and information in going forward.

"It's one thing to have funders around who can dig deep, but it's more important at the end of the day to have that community partnership."

TET chairman Brian Jeffares is delighted with the way the Clifton Park project could usher in a new era of co-operation between the trusts and councils.

"If I'm candid, I would have to say a lot of the contributions we've all made have been done in isolation.

"When the gymnastics club approached us, we were quite keen to help, but when we came to look at the size of the cheque and there were about 100 kids involved we knew there had to be more to benefit from a seven-figure sum. So we thought what could we do?"

Mr Jeffares says the TET sports complex in Stratford is a good example of how to do just that.

"There were about eight sports that all benefited from it. It's worked really well down there.

"We spoke to Maria [Ramsay] about their role and it was later that the NPDC strategy on the use of parks came into play, so it seemed a pretty logical direction."

This is a forerunner of things to come. There's a lot of small clubs out there trying to hang on, but it just can't be done.

- Taranaki Daily News

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