John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Council catering row boils up

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Bay Venues CEO Gary Dawson said catering started soon after ASB Arena opened.
Bay Venues CEO Gary Dawson said catering started soon after ASB Arena opened.

Trading constraints could be imposed on council-owned company Bay Venues after some councillors complained they were "not comfortable" with the purchase of a catering truck.

Long-standing concerns that the private sector was at a competitive disadvantage from council-controlled enterprises has again reared its head.

This time the heat is on some of Bay Venues' commercial activities including catering and ClubFit gym. The company operates Baypark and all the council's pools, stadiums and halls.

Chairman Peter Farmer said directors had responded by forming a subcommittee to define the implications of any constraints on trade.

"It is important that we define this with absolute clarity for elected members... do we operate as a landlord or operator."

Challenges facing Bay Venues' trading environment were revealed at a council meeting yesterday.

The council will be discussing the issue on April 5.

Previous conflicts with the commercial sector and private enterprise-minded councillors have included the gym attached to Baywave and planned spa extensions at Mount Hot Pools.

This time the catering operation has ignited concerns that look like spilling over into other commercial activities.

Bay Venues plan to convert one of the big sheds at the back of Baypark into six indoor courts has aroused concern that it could compete with a private indoor cricket operator.

Bay Venues CEO Gary Dawson said after the meeting that although the floor markings would include indoor cricket, it would not be the core focus from day one. "But if there was demand for it, we would look at having indoor cricket."

The new courts were primarily to handle the overflow from ASB Arena and as an alternative venue when the Arena was booked for shows.

The meeting also heard how ClubFit was to be enlarged by the removal of offices and staff being transferred to Baypark.

Councillor Catherine Stewart said Bay Venues had already purchased a catering truck. Mr Dawson responded that there had been feedback from some councillors who were not comfortable with the purchase.

He said the catering started soon after ASB Arena opened. "It certainly is working for us."

Catering surpluses were subsidising some of Bay Venues' community-based programmes. If they could not operate catering there would be implications for funding these programmes, he said.

Mr Farmer said: "That is why we need some certainty."

Bay Venues' report said the catering truck was to ensure it had "improved capability to deliver superior service".

Mr Dawson said it was highly unlikely that their High Performance Centre at Blake Park would compete with the new Athlete Factory training centre in Aerodrome Rd.

The company's commercial activities included events, catering, the gym, and the audio-visual business.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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