Hastings District councillors have approved the purchase of Tōmoana Showgrounds Hawke's Bay, subject to the agreement of the Hawke's Bay A&P Society members, and to start work to make the area a reserve under the Reserves Act.
The A&P Society approached the council in 2020 to gauge its interest in buying the land, and today's decision will go back to the A&P Society's members on Monday, June 27, for ratification.
Society acting general manager Isabelle Crawshaw said the society and council had worked closely over the last few months to create a mutually beneficial agreement to present to the membership.
"This focus of this agreement was to ensure our ability to hold our flagship events at the showgrounds and continue to recognise and celebrate the importance of the food and fibre sector within Hawke's Bay."
On Thursday the council agreed to buy 40ha of the showgrounds for $7.5 million, with the other 2.7ha of the site to be subdivided and retained by the A&P Society.
Upon ratification of this by the A&P Society, the council would start the process of preparing a Reserve Management Plan for the site and vest the Tōmoana Showgrounds as a reserve under the Reserves Act 1977. The name "Tōmoana Showgrounds" would be retained, and as a reserve the site would be held by the council in perpetuity.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the showgrounds were very important to the community, as shown by the fact more than 1200 responses were received when the proposal went out for feedback as part of the Annual Plan process.
"From all that feedback, 91 per cent were supportive of council buying the showgrounds, with a large number saying this site needed to be protected as a green space both now, and for future generations.
"I'm pleased the A&P Society will still be holding their iconic events with a long tradition of celebrating our rural community, and this decision also opens the door for many more events to be held at this location.
"Under a trust the whole site will be managed to protect the long-term interests of this special place and our people – to give certainty for the likes of the much-loved Farmers' Market – the oldest Farmers' Market in New Zealand."
Hawke's Bay Farmers' Market spokesman Murray Douglas said this was a magnificent opportunity for Hawke's Bay, building on the fantastic job the A&P Society had done for more than 100 years.
"There's an opportunity now for thoughtful investment to develop more events and supporting infrastructure to ensure events and activities like ours can continue for the next 100 years."
Another big event held at the showgrounds was the Horse of the Year and event chairman Tim Aitken agreed the purchase would be a positive move.
"We would be excited to work with Hastings District Council and our partners Equestrian Sports New Zealand to ensure the grounds are fit for purpose."
With the council's approval on Thursday, it means the adoption of the Annual Plan on June 30, including the purchase of the showgrounds should that proceed, would result in an average rate increase of 6.9 per cent for the 2022/23 year.