Stadium vision reaffirmed as revised repair programme approved
The Taranaki Regional Council has reaffirmed its vision for Yarrow Stadium as the country’s premier international-grade regional venue, and has revised the repair and refurbishment programme to reduce the impact on ratepayers.
The stadium project is now proceeding on a budget of up to $50 million, with outer field updates on hold pending further discussions with the wider sporting community. The budget was up to $55 million in initial proposals.
Rating formulas have also been tweaked to further ease the burden on small businesses in New Plymouth and North Taranaki.
And the Council will tell the Yarrow Stadium operator, New Plymouth District Council, to seek ways to encourage increased use of the facility by a wider range of sporting and non-sporting organisations.
Today’s vote was unanimous, with one Councillor absent from the meeting.
Vision for Yarrow Stadium
The Council Chair, David MacLeod, says he’s pleased with the way the community took part in the consultation process leading up to today’s decisions.
“We heard from a lot of different people with a lot of different views, some of them more informed than others. It’s always challenging to assess a large number opinions and suggestions, but I was glad so many people took the opportunity to participate.
“After we’d heard from everyone, we asked ourselves again what we need to achieve. After a lot of discussion and deliberation, we concluded that the vision adopted in 2015 still applies.”
The vision is:
The best regional stadium in New Zealand that regularly hosts national and international sports and entertainment events.
A stadium for both major events and community events and the premier outdoor field for team sports codes.
A stadium that is loved by sports fans and the local community.
A stadium that is a quality experience for event promoters, participants and spectators, which is achieved through superior event facilities, presentation and management and through the early adoption and smart use of technology.
“Clearly, we must reinstate what we had, with updates that are necessary to meet current and foreseeable requirements for such venues,” says Mr MacLeod. “Weighing up all of the submissions, we’re confident that the community largely shares this view.”
“We need to be clear that this is a repair and refurbishment project. We’re working with the Stadium we already have. If we were building a new one, a different approach might have been possible.
“It’s also misleading and misrepresents the situation to say we need to spend only $33 million or $36 million to fix the grandstands, and can do without the refurbishments.
“It’s a false option. Just fixing the grandstands would not result in a fit-for-purpose, usable Stadium. The refurbishments are included because they are essential – replacing end-of-life lighting with up-to-date LED fittings is but one leading example. Doing without them is out of the question.
“These refurbishments continue a development programme that was formed in consultation with the wider sporting community, and well before the earthquake-prone issue arose. Nothing has changed – apart from a not-to-be missed opportunity to get them done most efficiently while repairs are under way.
“The refurbishment programme was being funded from the previous Yarrow Stadium rate, which is now replaced by the new rating arrangement that also includes the cost of grandstand repairs.
“We listened carefully to, and empathise with, the sporting codes that told us they feel left out. We want the stadium operator to make the facility a usable proposition for as broad a range of codes as possible.
“And in the run-up to next year’s Long-Term Plan, we’ll seek feedback from other users about the merits or otherwise of the outer field updates that are currently on hold. We’ll have a clearer picture of actual repair costs by then as well, and we’ll be able to review funding arrangements.
“However, discussions about local sporting venues and facilities belong first and foremost in district council forums. The Taranaki Regional Council funds Yarrow Stadium as the region’s platform for national and international events. But there is no legal basis for us to be involved in local sporting facilities. We won’t go there.”
He says the Council will continue to seek further outside funding assistance for the repair project, and the option of a bigger main stand extension remains on the table in case external funding becomes available.
Cost and rating
Mr MacLeod says real concern over the cost of the project was evident in many of the submissions read and heard by Councillors.
“Trimming the budget by $5 million is a direct response to these concerns. But we acknowledge some may still be disappointed, either because they think it should be further reduced, or because they wanted to go ahead with everything in the original budget or even spend more. ”
He says the Taranaki Chamber of Commerce made a convincing case for the Council to rethink its rating formulas for New Plymouth and North Taranaki businesses.
“So we’ve tweaked it so that small commercial enterprises in the north don’t face the same bill as large, well-resourced operations,” he says.
Project scope and rating – the details
The $50 million covers repairs to the earthquake-prone grandstand and consequential changes, and important updates including additional food and beverage outlets and toilets, technology upgrades, LED pitch lighting, car park improvements, maintenance and grounds storage sheds, gate improvements, new South Terrace seating and reinstatement of field 1.
The new $50 million budget includes $1.6 million for contingencies.
Previous rating for Yarrow Stadium is discontinued and replaced by these new rates. The Council has also confirmed a nil rise in its general rates for the coming year.
The Yarrow Stadium project is being funded with these rates:
New Plymouth/North Taranaki households and farms: $70.34 a year ($80.89 incl GST)
New Plymouth/North Taranaki commercial: Total rate will vary by size of business. Most will pay between $200 and $600, with some higher and some lower.
Stratford and South Taranaki – all ratepayers: $47.30 a year ($54.40 incl GST).
“This has been a hugely difficult issue for Taranaki to face,” says Mr MacLeod. “It’s been a tough decision. We’ve listened very carefully to the community’s views, and discussed the issues at length.
“Now it’s time to get cracking, fix Yarrow Stadium and take Taranaki forward.”