Club lease sorted

By Don Farmer -
1 comment
The clubrooms at the Masterton Athletics Track. WAG 06Jan16 - BATTLE GROUND: A lease on the clubrooms adjacent to the All Weather Track has finally been signed. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK WA
The clubrooms at the Masterton Athletics Track. WAG 06Jan16 - BATTLE GROUND: A lease on the clubrooms adjacent to the All Weather Track has finally been signed. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK WA

A six-year battle to get a renewed lease on its clubrooms has finally ended for Athletics and Cycling Masterton (ACM).

The sporting body has, according to its officers, been strung along by Masterton District Council since about the time the all-weather track was mooted for reasons that remain clouded.

The clubrooms were built largely as a result of members fundraising many years back with a right of renewal clause on the lease.

But when the lease was about to expire and a request for a contractual lease renewal was made, it stalled.

Club chairwoman Sue Lyttle and president Graeme Butcher revealed last week the written request had been "pretty much ignored" and that signalled the start of a long and curious delay, dating back to 2009.

Months later, when no renewal had been forthcoming, the club had a meeting with a then senior council officer asking what was going on, and "what was happening regarding the track".

They were told they could stay where they were "until things were sorted" and that there would be no change in their rental.

The club's financial commitment to the council had been fully paid up and it has continued to pay for the lease of the building and also the grounds.

After two years with no security of tenure the club wrote a submission to the council as well as meeting with the Wairarapa All Weather Track Trust (WAWTT) but was still not given a reason for not being able to secure a lease renewal.

Mrs Lyttle said at the meeting with the track trust the club asked the trust to support its attempt to get a renewed lease.

"They all just looked away and Johnathan Hooker said we can't give you that support."

The club's officers were told by Grant Hathaway, a council officer who is no longer employed by the council, that perhaps athletics should be run differently in Wairarapa and had talked of the club needing to split.

According to the club officials it was only days later when Jill Stringer, a member of ACM and also a committee member on the track trust, called a special meeting "to Club's six-year battle over lease ends

discuss a split in our club".

Track and field did split away from ACM and Athletics Wairarapa formed a club of its own but the issue of ACM's lease was no closer to being sorted out and no clear reasons why were given.

In 2012 ACM sought legal help "as our attempts to deal with Masterton District Council were futile".

Mr Butcher said because of the uncertainty of tenure, maintenance of the clubrooms suffered, with no redecorating being done and birds nesting in the roof and guttering.

During the long period of delay attempts had been made to get a "third party" attached to the club's lease, being the track trust but this was rejected out of hand.

Club officials met with Masterton mayor Lyn Patterson and the council's chief executive, Pim Borren, and finally, just a few weeks ago, a renewed lease was forthcoming for a period of 28 years from the expiry of the old lease.

Mrs Lyttle said the lease did not come about as a result of the meetings though.

She said "shallow promises" to get it sorted were nothing more than lip service and delays had continued.

"We only got our lease because we advised the council six years was long enough and we had instructed our legal team to issue proceedings. This and only this got them to the table, this time with ears on."

The club officials said no proper explanation for the five or six-year delay and wrangle had ever been given.

Mrs Lyttle said quite a few clubs and organisations lease buildings owned by Masterton District Council.

"If they have to go through what we have been through then God help them," she said.

Mr Butcher said he remains disappointed the council could treat a club which has been in existence for more than 100 years "so badly".

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