Ratepayers to fund $50,000 racing study

By Lawrence Gullery

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Hastings ratepayers will fund $50,000 for a study showing whether it's worth moving Hawke's Bay Racing to the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds to form a major sports and entertainment events centre on the outskirts of the city.

A majority of the Hastings District Council's district development committee agreed to fund the feasibility study when it met yesterday but not everyone was happy with the decision.

Councillor Wayne Bradshaw said the $50,000 should be paid back to the council by the land owners or beneficiaries of the proposed development.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said the racing centre and society were not in a position to pay for the study.

"Both groups are spending around the same amount to do earthquake assessments of their buildings. The A&P; Society assessment, I believe, is over $40,000 alone and Hawke's Bay Racing is going through similar proportions."

The study would show how the racing centre could be relocated next to the Hawke's Bay A&P; Society at the showgrounds.

The property would be expanded to include the neighbouring Elwood Park and land owned by Drillers Poultry Farm.

Some councillors thought the possible economic benefits of the development, if successful, would outweigh the $50,000 cost of the study.

Mr Yule said Hastings Rugby and Sports at Elwood Park, already had a successful operation with "money in the bank" and did not need to redevelop.

"But they are involved in this because they can see the upside and importance of the proposal for the region."

Councillor Rod Heaps put forward an amendment which asked for the $50,000 to be paid back from the sale of land at the Hawke's Bay Racecourse but Mr Yule said it would be unfair to assume the land would be sold.

"This amendment means that Hawke's Bay Racing would be responsible for paying back the money when it is the project which should bear the costs, not the racing centre," Mr Yule said.

Councillors spent 30 minutes debating whether the money should be paid back and who would benefit the most.

"I am amazed at the way this debate is going. I think it is pathetic," Councillor Sandra Hazelhurst said.

"We are talking about $50,000 to show some leadership on the matter and I am disappointed at the lack of leadership being shown by my colleagues."

Mr Yule persuaded most councillors to drop the idea of asking for the $50,000 to be paid back.

"If we do this as an investment (and the money is paid back), there will be a perception when we get to the next level that we can invest more money.

"I would rather have that conversation at the end of the study. If the study shows the proposal is not a go, the council will write off $50,000 as part of its leadership function and we will be no worse off."

The study will take about three months to complete.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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