Knee Jerk Reactions

One of the more complex issues to confront Wellington City Council in recent years was that of the indoor stadium.  At the Chamber we have spent hundreds of hours on the issue.  I must have lobbied the Mayor personally twenty times on it.  Our Board has agonised over the issue, and we have surveyed our membership on it.

Like Cr Foster our initial position was that a site next to the Westpac Stadium on the outskirts of the CDB was the best one.  We still believe this.  Unfortunately there are significant drawbacks to this site.  Size, cost (we have serious doubts about the claim by Cr Foster that a 12 court stadium can be built next to the Westpac Stadium for $46 million does this for example include the cost of the necessary grade separation?) and carparking all raise significant issues for the CBD site.  So reluctantly, after studying every piece of information available on the issue we came around to the view that the Cobham Drive site was the only option to support.  Our submission (easy to find on our website) I think displays our reluctance, but also shows that we took a well considered position.

While considering this issue in depth we monitored the positions taken by individual Councillors, their arguments in meetings and their attendance at meetings.  We know exactly the role played by Cr Foster in this process as does the Dominion Post

Last year Mr Foster called the decision to put the centre on Cobham Park the worst by the council in 15 years. It sparked a new council vote that saw Cobham Park reconfirmed as the site by 13 votes to 1. Mr Foster missed the meeting as it clashed with his 10th wedding anniversary.

Having essentially lost the robust and extended argument for the port site, the Chamber has felt obliged to back the early completion of the agreed site at Cobham Park.  As those who know me will testify, I am a pretty tenacious person.  (I will do a post shortly on an issue I have been fighting for for 23 years).  But on some issues there comes a times when you have to accept the inevitable, particularly when there has been a fair and transparent democratic process to reach a decision.  At the Chamber we also feel that the construction of this project could not be better timed given the economic downturn, and it was clear that the sporting codes affected have clearly been waiting too long for a facility of this type.  We had assumed that other parties who had favoured the port site would act in a similar way to us, after all the facility will be a real asset for the region and the sooner we have it the better.

We now face an 18 month to 2 year delay.  This is annoying.  I personally feel for those parents and sports players who will have to spend an extra two years of standing and playing out in the Wellington elements.  I feel also for those companies that might have survived if this construction had occurred and those who will be without work because of this delay.  This was also an issue which I had been commenting on for several days.  So there was nothing knee jerk in my support for comments from our Mayor a couple of days ago.  I was angry over the grounds used for this appeal (is preferring another site real grounds for appeal under the RMA??), and I was as angry over the fact that a member of the Council had decided to act contrary to the near unanimous position of the Council as I was last year over Iona Pannett’s attempts to stop the Basin Reserve grade separation following a very detailed and complex decision over the Ngauranga to Airport land transport corridor (I am at least consistent on this issue of collective responsibility).

I have never called for Cr Foster’s resignation, but I do think there is an issue around this.  To paraphrase another blogger “Isn’t the fact that 8 members of the Council including the Mayor are either calling for a colleague’s resignation or suggesting that he review his position suggestive of the fact that there is a serious issue here?”  And isn’t it a bit unusual that Cr Foster has been the subject of two searching editorials – Wellingtonian and Dominion Post??? I also do worry about Andy’s ability to Chair his two committees in the current situation.  As a minimum a standdown might be an idea.  These considerations were the background to my supposedly knee jerk reaction.

Is it appropriate for someone in my position to be expressing opinions on this issue?  Absolutely.  It is my job.  Who else scrutinises the Council and the actions of individual Councillors as closely as I do?  What is the Chamber position?  This is also easily accessible on our website.

I was also a bit surprised to be labelled an ardent cheerleader for Mayor Prendergast.  I am sure that she will be as surprised as I was to read this characterisation.  We have a close and fully professional working relationship.  We meet somewhere around town most days.  We regularly exchange views on the issues of the day.  We sometimes agree and often disagree (we can’t mention a certain roading project to the North of Wellington without the sparks flying). This is the nature of our roles.

I do hope that this issue is not about positioning for another significant event that is also due in about 18 months to 2 years time (have a read of the first letter to the editor in today’s Dominion Post).  But by then I am kind of hoping we might be lucky enough to be voting for a Mayor of Greater Wellington.  In that context, the site chosen for the Wellington city indoor stadium is unlikely to be a regional issue.  By the way this isn’t just my view, the Chamber has long championed the idea of local body amalgamation.  Once the Royal Commission on Auckland delivers its recommendations, a similar solution for Wellington must be on the cards.

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One Response to “Knee Jerk Reactions”

  1. Calls for the sacking of Andy Foster over indoor sports centre issue an affront to democracy « Poneke’s Weblog Says:

    […] February 11: In response to this article, Charles Finny has posted a lengthy account of his and the chamber’s views on this […]

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