As the fundraising rolls on, with Sir Graeme Avery at the wheel, there is still a great opportunity for supporters to get on the bus.

The drive not only toward establishing a truly region-wide community health and sport facility, but also the drive toward delivering quality programmes out into the community.

In terms of uniting Napier and Hastings, and the region as a whole, we may never see another person or project providing the opportunity that Hawke's Bay has before it now.

Here is a real-life project to bring people together, something meaningful, with one independent leader.


A genuine shared facility that residents of both cities can call their own - a centrepiece of Hawke's Bay.

A fantastic collaborative opportunity for the twin cities, conveniently located equidistant from the girls' schools of Woodford and Iona, over to the likes of Napier Boys' and Napier Girls' high schools.

A shared Hawke's Bay hub, joined up with Wairoa and Central Hawke's Bay (CHB), via their great community centres and schools, and out to the wider surrounding districts.

Wairoa and CHB are far from bystanders, and can also stake a strong Hawke's Bay leadership position and their place at the Hawke's Bay Community Health and Sport Centre.

They are already actively involved in programmes with the Sir Graeme Avery-led Trust.

Just as our wonderful Hawke's Bay sporting rep teams bring together a diverse range of people in a united black and white strip, the Avery-led project can do the same - the chance to have a shared facility for all of Hawke's Bay to come under one banner, and call home.

Although the main central facility is crucial - serving as a hive of excellence, and a crucial link out to existing community centres and up to the national networks - it is way more than "bricks and mortar", because it is the research-led community programmes that will make the biggest impact, and which are already kicking off.

Sir Graeme has planned a major longitudinal healthy lifestyles programme for Hawke's Bay, one to be studied and documented. A co-ordinated project that will bring together key partners, within which all existing healthy lifestyles providers' work can be channelled, and all research aligned for quality assurance.

It is similar in approach to the internationally recognised "Dunedin Study", which brings together a multi-disciplinary health and development project, and has implemented great programmes providing crucial insights for future generations.

Sir Graeme and his team of other Hawke's Bay leaders want to do something similar here - a Bay project currently dubbed "changing lives".

Our communities are facing a dangerously growing range of health and wellbeing issues - from excessive junk food and lack of physical development in our youth, through to obesity and the more sinister problems surrounding P and other drugs.

We need to do something drastic now, it isn't going to get any better on its own. Sir Graeme is leading the opportunity for all the community to get in behind, from local government leaders through to gang leaders - anybody who wants to help make a difference and make a better future.

The "changing lives" project is starting with pilots in Flaxmere, and then expanding into other communities in Hastings, Napier, Wairoa and CHB, all aligning key Institutional stakeholders such as the DHB, Sport HB, and other community groups, for streamlined efficiencies and outcomes, all wrapped up with research and academic support from Eastern Institute of Technology and AUT University.

There are many excellent community service groups within Hawke's Bay, the opportunity to have those amazing people and efforts aligned through the longitudinal community study is exciting. Channelled through one co-ordinated project and central hub, connecting out via the existing providers to the individuals, families, and children that need it most.

Bringing together everyone behind one independent driver is no easy task - but if it doesn't happen now with Sir Graeme's lead, we may never get a better chance. A leadership organisation in Hawke's Bay that can also have strong collaborative relations at government level - ministries of health, education, and Sport NZ.

Now is the Bay's chance to get on board with the Sir Graeme Avery-led Trust at the Regional Sports Park, and help build the centre and programmes that we can all be proud of, enhancing the Bay's reputation nationally, and internationally, for generations.

* Marcus Agnew is the health and sport development manager at Hawke's Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust and is also a lecturer in sports science at EIT.