The transformation of Kaitaia's Te Hiku Sports Hub from a concept to a design to a reality has taken a major step forward with the appointment of former Kaitaia bank manager Richard Dickinson as part-time project co-ordinator, made possible by a grant from the Four Winds Charitable Foundation.
Committee member Alan Simkins said Mr Dickinson's appointment had galvanised the project, while the imminent formation of a governance board would provide further impetus.
"Sport Northland recommended that the existing committee be replaced with a governance board, which would provide the expertise needed for the next phase," Mr Simkins said.
Sport Northland would help organise the process, with public advertising for potential candidates, ideally local, to begin in the coming weeks.
The process would be complete in the next three months, the board's role being to guide the development phase of the project and then oversee the operations of the completed facility.
The existing committee would effectively fire itself, Mr Dickinson said.
Board members would be chosen for their skill and expertise, plus representatives chosen by the member clubs. Each board member would have one vote, the current committee retaining an advisory role, with one vote. Mr Dickinson, being an employee, did not and would not have a vote.
The next phase would focus on detailed planning, design and costings, a process in which Mr Simkins said Sport Northland's expertise would make an invaluable contribution.
The Far North District Council, he added, had already spent $2.6 million on developing the site.
"Much of that work, including extensive drainage and flood prevention, is not visible, but we have been told that more than 30,000 cubic metres of earth has been moved to form the new sports fields and parking areas, and more than 3 kilometres of subsoil drains have been installed," he said. "These will keep the fields as dry as possible during the winter, and enable use most of the time."
The entrance off South Rd, parking and lighting were attracting considerable positive comment, but the most anticipated feature, a sports facility including an aquatic centre with a heated swimming pool, hydrotherapy and learn to swim pools, was not scheduled for construction for the next two to three years. It was hoped that work on the 2km fitness trail would begin shortly, however.
Meanwhile, applications for $4.1m, including the $2.8m pledged by Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern when she campaigned in Kaitaia before last year's general election (contingent upon the community raising the balance), were now in train, which would leave another $5.6m needed to complete the project.
The district council had pledged to provide one-third of the aquatic centre capital costs in its long-term plan 2018-28, as long as the community raises the balance. Other potential sources of funding had been identified, and Mr Simkins was confident that the target was an achievable one.
"People need to understand that we're not sitting on a great pot of cash," he added though.
"All the funding has to be in place before any money is released and construction work can start.
"The hub committee has done a great deal so far, but obviously there is a lot more work still to do," he added.
"The last six or seven months have put the project on a new footing though, and the community will be seeing more tangible signs of progress in the months to come. Our intention is to regularly update our progress through the pages of the Northland Age and on our Facebook site."