Thursday, 03 December 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Tairua Skatepark campaigners making progress

The members of the Tairua-Pauanui Community Board took on the challenge last week of finding $300,000 to kickstart work on a skatepark in Tairua after more than 30 years of waiting.

In June, apparent confusion over the board’s preferred location for a skatepark saw the project lose $104,000 of the $164,000 that had been earmarked this financial year. However, advocates - including students from the local school - have since forced the issue back on the agenda.

At last Monday’s Community Board meeting, local campaigners were supported by Bill Cooksley, Thames-Coromandel District Coordinator for Sport Waikato, who urged the members to back the project at its current proposed site at Cory Park. He said a skatepark beside an open field was a great opportunity for overcoming barriers to youth participation in sport. As well as outlining multiple health benefits, research showed skateparks don’t encourage antisocial behaviour as some suggested, but frequently reduce it as young people have something to do in a designated area.

With a commitment from the campaigners to raise a third of the total $450,000 cost, it is now down to the South Eastern Ward councillors Terry Walker and Gary Gotlieb to convince the rest of council to get on board, something Thames-Coromandel District Council’s Infrastructure Group Manager, Bruce Hinson, warned may not be an easy feat. “They have a lot of other things they are considering across the whole district, given the current financial situation,” he cautioned, advising the issue would come before the full council at their 8 December meeting.

The request will be for a $300,000 out of budget loan to the Community Board. While TCDC has put an emphasis on financial restraint in terms of spending for the next three years, elected members from other parts of the Peninsula will face a strong argument for equity, with Whangamata, Thames and most recently Whitianga all receiving substantial council investment to upgrade their skateparks, while Tairua has for years failed to secure one.

In what Mr Walker described as a “stake in the ground,” he urged fellow Community Board members to be united in what they do going forward and give the people of the community what they said they would.

With unanimous agreement, the board voted to request the out of cycle funding. If approved, work could commence without further delay and the project would not need to go thorough yet another Long Term Plan process next year.

The board also approved an updated design for the skatepark. Nearby residents will be invited to provide further feedback on the detailed design, including in particular the landscaping which will be extensive. In addition, the board members formally endorsed applications for external funding to raise the outstanding $150,000. The one third/two third split between community and council funding is based on models employed elsewhere, including the new skatepark in Whitianga.

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