With the reflective time out we had during Covid lockdown, and with the masses of monies that have been thrown around post lockdown, 2021 looms as an exciting year for the region, and it is going to be fascinating to see what further community sport and health developments emerge this year.
Hastings has done incredibly well out of it, and hopefully Napier will too.
Park Island is a huge opportunity with its location, existing sporting infrastructure; with its ample and beautiful spaces, it lies there inert and ready for action.
A co-ordinated twin city sports system would be amazing for Hawke's Bay, collaborating across Napier-Hastings, and outreaching with sport and health support across the region, linking with Wairoa, Central Hawke's Bay and the Flaxmere facilities too.
This is a year of opportunity, but what do the sports codes want? And what do the people want?
The outlay of government funds has been great, but also fast, too fast some say.
The Government wanted shovel ready projects which is great, but the rapidity of the whole process made it difficult to get real community input and clarity about what is actually needed - collectively as a people, here is a big lump of money, now what is the most important things for us to spend it on?
Wayne Goldsmith, sports system guru and prophet, has been guarding against what he calls the Facility Fallacy – where he warns governments and communities against tipping large sums into building facilities, in the hope that they have ticked the box and can now move on problem solved. These challenges, says Wayne, are much bigger than facilities.
The influence modern technology, devices and social media is having on mental health is unprecedented, especially among our young people with the rise of anxiety and depression.
Principals and teachers at our schools are pulling their hair out, many at their wits' end, as they are increasingly landed with more children with special needs, desperate pleas for assistance falling on deaf ears – "sorry, no funds available to help you", yet they look around and see the government funding massive empires and building their symbols of success and progress.
With the money being bandied around by the Government, it is a great time for those who have the political contacts and know-how to access said funds. But for others, given the speed with which money is released, it is a little harder to organise a shovel ready project, let alone have their voice heard.
What about the people at the coalface, we all know they are there, dealing with many serious and sad issues, but largely left unheard and unseen? Police and other community workers are grappling with the rise of the gangs, and the business of drugs – what are the challenges they face, and what do they need?
Thorough engagement and input from mana whenua – what do they see from their cultural perspective, and what can we do going forward to make a better future?
Yes we need facilities to a point, but it has to be in balance with people, we need funds to resource the people and programmes because ultimately it is people that will make the difference.
Sports organisations can be hugely influential on our community, and if funded sufficiently, they have the power and leverage to drive much greater community outcomes for us all.
Sport codes – the rugby unions, netball, etc – if funded sufficiently, could be so much more than just about their sport. They can use their sport, their mana, their influence, to inspire and guide young people into a healthy, positive and constructive future.
The codes already have the 'in' with the community, they have leverage. Let's feed them, get more coaches on the ground, and positive role models in front of the kids that need them.
Hastings has done amazingly well tapping into the government funds, fuelling the rapid and ongoing facility development of Mitre 10 Sports Park, much of it single-handedly driven by the incredible work of Sir Graeme Avery.
Napier has also managed to snaffle some funds enabling the extension of the Pettigrew Green Arena, allowing for much needed court space which had been clearly identified over the last few years. But there is clearly so much more opportunity, in fact 68 hectares of Sport and Recreation land lies in wait at Park Island – five minutes from the airport and set amongst beautiful parklands.
It doesn't necessarily have to cost the council too much, it's Napier's opportunity to create an inspirational vision, a great legacy project for the city that can draw in the financial input from others, a collaborative approach, driven by the community needs and the sports system.
A vision to align and co-ordinate the twin cities facilities, weaving in the environmental outcomes which are also huge at the moment, and involve genuine input and leadership from Māori hapu and iwi of the land, to make something truly special.
Hawke's Bay is an amazing place, beautiful geography and climate, a great diversity of people, but still with so much more potential to unite, in so many different ways.
Marcus Agnew: Community Development | International Rugby | Lecturer, researcher & initiator of Hawke's Bay's Institute of Sport & Health.