The Stratford Park Project is one step closer to reality, after
the Stratford A&P Association got a $7.18 million loan from the local council.
The association had
asked Stratford District Council for help to buy
63 hectares in two parcels so it could develop a facility for motorsport, driver education, equestrian and other sporting activities.
The Stratford Park project, would be a "game changer" for the district, said supporters.
More than 50 supporters filled the public gallery at the council's extraordinary meeting, applauding loudly as elected members voted 10/1 in favour of the loan.
Project steering committee chairman Neil McDonald, said the clear public support for the idea showed the park would be well used.
He said the project was an opportunity to "reinvent" Stratford.
"People are tired of being conservative. This is a chance to move Stratford forward."
The children of the district, he said, wanted "their leaders to be brave and courageous".
Backing the project would raise self-esteem among the district's residents and give people a reason to be proud of their town, he said.
The longest-serving councillor at the table, John Sandford, said he would be voting yes.
"This project is very exciting for us all. It will put us on the map in no uncertain terms."
Councillor Grant Boyde also said he was excited by the future of the town and the project.
"Sometimes the biggest risk is in not taking a risk at all."
Other councillors agreed.
"It's fantastic for Stratford," said deputy mayor Alan Jamieson, and Cr Rick Coplestone offered more than just verbal support.
"Any way I can help, I will be there."
Crs Min McKay, Gloria Webby, Jono Erwood, Amanda Harris and mayor Neil Volzke also spoke in support, as did Cr Peter Dalziel, who had voted against the loan at the previous week's meeting.
Joining the meeting via an audio visual link, Dalziel said despite not considering it "a bankable deal" he would support it: "Firstly it brings a benefit to Stratford, and the second reason is that we are backing a group of individuals to make this work."
He still had reservations, and wanted conditions applied to the loan, including that the A&P association pay $25,000 if needed towards the cost of the council getting a credit rating in the future, which was passed.
Cr Vaughan Jones voted against the loan, saying he would rather it be smaller.
He was "very supportive" of the project overall, but was concerned by the variation in valuations council had received on the land.
"We have to think as a ratepayer," he said.
He was also concerned about what would happen if the association was unable to repay the loan.
"What is Stratford going to say when we take the land and say their A&P show is gone?"
The association needs an affirmative vote from 66 per cent or more of its members for the project to go ahead, scheduled for a meeting next week.
The association will also need to raise $2m to buy another piece of neighbouring land for future expansion.
Disclaimer: Ilona Hanne is married to the Stratford District Council CEO.