A vocal audience had plenty to say at a public meeting about proposals for the Whanganui Velodrome project.
About 300 people turned out on a rainy night for the meeting at the Whanganui War Memorial Centre on Wednesday. It was the first of Whanganui District Council's public consultation meetings to discuss its long term plan for 2021-2031.
The three proposed options for the velodrome are to demolish the track and decommission the site, repair and roof the velodrome, or build a multi-purpose velodrome and events centre. The council's preferred option is to fix and roof the velodrome.
Mayor Hamish McDouall said the selection was not made unanimously and the preference was not a "fait accompli".
He said the meeting was not a time to make submissions or debate the validity of the three possible options proposed by the council but to talk about space in the budget and hear from stakeholders.
"Keep your powder dry for when you are making submissions," he said.
"The council doesn't make decisions based on how loud you shout."
The mayor asked for respectful communication to enable productive political discourse.
Despite the mayor's request for politeness, there were some raised voices and derogatory comments about the council's performance, with one man claiming the council had "screwed" the Regional Velodrome Development Trust (RVDT).
The stakeholders invited to speak at the meeting were former New Zealand head cycling coach Ron Cheatley, Cycling Whanganui president Ian Murphy and Bob Smith of the RVDT.
Cheatley said Whanganui first had a velodrome in 1876 and had produced many great cyclists.
"The history of cycling is enormous and we want to get back to that," he said.
He said the velodrome was not only a facility for the cycling elite but a place for people such as seniors, school groups and those with disabilities, for example sight impairment.
Cheatley said there was also potential for sporting events that would not take away from other Whanganui facilities and suggested crossfit national competitions as a possibility.
The velodrome track was taken out of commission this year after a cyclist's wheel went through a rotten board and Cheatley expressed concern about further deterioration.
'If something isn't done soon the trusses will rot.
"That is really, really important."
Smith said the RVDT would prefer an option that sits between the council's preferred option and the multi-purpose events centre.
The velodrome track designed by the late Ron Webb was still a world-class construction and decommissioning it was not an option, Smith said.
"He had designed other tracks around the world and he perfected his design here in Whanganui.
"When it was built in 1995, Ron's recommendation was that it would need to be roofed within five years."
The RVDT was established in 2000 and has devoted years of its time to designing and researching plans for covering the velodrome.
There was a lot of support for the RVDT in the audience and accusations that the group had not had a fair hearing from the council.
One person asked why the RVDT proposal was not included as one of the options for the long-term plan.
Councillor Philippa Baker-Hogan, who has been a constant champion for the velodrome and worked with RDVT, said the three options were proposals only and the public was invited to have input on altering the final plans.
It was the council's responsibility to manage its assets, she said, a role that councillors were tasked with when elected.
"When it comes to elections you can vote for us or not but when you elect us, you entrust us with making decisions."
Murphy began by apologising that Cycling Whanganui, which has 70 members, had not been as prominent as it could have been in velodrome discussions.
"We have spent the last year getting our act into gear and we need to take more responsibility to promote cycling in the region," he said.
"I am confident that we will be a major user."
Murphy said the club was willing to gift its clubrooms as part of the velodrome which currently did not have toilet facilities.
"I'm willing to put a tie on, go to Wellington and ask for another $11m towards the project," he said.
Baker-Hogan said leaders of both the National and Labour parties had previously indicated their willingness to help fund a velodrome upgrade but stressed that the council needed to put up enough of its own funding and have a viable plan for that to happen.
Steve Bramley of SGL Funding Limited (SGL), who was engaged by the council to undertake an independent review of the proposed velodrome redevelopment last year, gave an overview of his findings and answered questions.
Bramley said he read more than 100 documents, including the RDVT business plan, during the review conducted in consultation with architects and quantity surveyors.
"Attracting events like concerts to the velodrome site would be problematic," he said.
"There would be the need to employ extra staff and install scaffolding which could cost up to $100,000."
He said there would be sufficient space within the infield area for a speed skating track which had been suggested as a compatible sport to hold at the venue.
There was a question about the long-term affordability of the plans and how they would impact young people into the future.
One person expressed concern about the accessibility of council reports and whether the weight of information might be off-putting for some people.
Baker-Hogan said supplementary sheets on the relevant policies could be made available.
Submissions on the velodrome and other long term plan projects can be made until 5pm on April 30. Information is available at whanganui.govt.nz, by calling 06 349 0001 or email email@example.com.