In a few months Northlanders will get to have our say on whether we keep paying money toward sport and recreational facilities.

We are being asked our opinion because we have been paying a targeted rate on our rates bills toward repayment of a $13m grant that the Northland Regional Council put toward the upgrade/rebuild of what we now know as Toll Stadium.

The grant was basically a loan on behalf of ratepayers and we are paying it off next June.

In eight years we have repaid $13m, and the NRC wants to know if we are happy to continue paying a targeted rate toward a fund that would supply grants toward sport and recreation.


Typically, we rely heavily on what we know as "ASB funding" for this type of thing in Northland, for which we very grateful for.

Our own fund would give us independence and the ability to progress sporting and recreation projects faster than we currently do.

I can think of many sporting groups who would upgrade their facilities if they had access to a Northland-based fund that they could apply to funding for, as well as ASB.

Sportsville Dargaville - a $2.8m multi-purpose sports facility at Memorial Park - needs an additional $594,000 to complete that project.

And the Mangawhai Activity Zone needs $700,000 to complete a skate arena to Olympic games standard.

The Far North District Council needs funds toward the multi-purpose Te Hiku Sports' hub, built at a cost of $12m.

The Government has committed $2.8m and an additional $2.7m is expected to be raised through a Far North District Council targeted rate.

Another $2.8m is being sought from funders such as Foundation North and New Zealand Lotteries.

Many Northlanders would support a fund being set up from a targeted rate, but perhaps we need to go further than sport and recreation.

Our local district councils and the NRC could perhaps agree on terms for a fund established over five years from a targeted rate that leaves us with an investable and contestable "nest egg", that we can disseminate into the community.

It may not be of the scale of the funding raised over the past eight years but it would kick start many valuable projects in Northland.