No ‘perfect’ location for new event centre

Gary Kircher. Photo: ODT
Gary Kircher. Photo: ODT
The Waitaki District Council will never find the "perfect" location for a new indoor sport and event centre, Mayor Gary Kircher says.

At yesterday’s submissions hearing for the location of the proposed Waitaki Event Centre, Mr Kircher told councillors it was a matter of deciding what worked best and moving the project forward.

"There will always be pros and cons with any site that we might choose," he said.

The council has identified Centennial Park, between the grandstand and Taward St, as the preferred location of the proposed six-court sports and events centre in Oamaru. Because it is managed by the council as a recreation reserve under the Reserves Act 1977, the change of land use needed to be publicly notified.

The council received 297 submissions, 266 in support of the location, 20 against and 11 "maybes". Many of those in support of the location cited the creation of a "sports hub" at Centennial Park as a key reason for their support.

Those against or unsure raised concerns about traffic congestion, a lack of parking space and it not being close enough to the town’s central business district, and suggested other locations such as the A&P showgrounds, Orana Park and the former Oamaru RSA building.

At yesterday’s hearing, discussion often moved away from the location to features of the stadium and incorporating the development of a new rugby grandstand into the project.

But Mr Kircher and several other councillors highlighted
the need to focus on the question of location, be realistic to keep costs in check and keep the project moving forward.

Responding to concerns relating to parking in the area, as several different sports competitions were held on Saturdays, Mr Kircher said additional parks would be created for the stadium, and an indoor facility would allow competitions to be scheduled on other days of the week, or at night, to reduce traffic congestion.

However, he recognised the need for better management of traffic flow in the area, and on to State Highway 1, and said the council’s roading team was looking into it.

Several submitters raised concerns about whether there was enough room for expansion at Centennial Park, if it was required in the future.

Council recreation manager Erik van der Spek said initial work indicated there could be room to add another two courts at the site, without using St Kevin’s College grounds. But the Oamaru secondary school had also been open to discussions about expansion on to its land.

Another topic raised in several submissions was a need to replace the ageing grandstand at Centennial Park, and incorporating a new grandstand development as part of the event centre project.

"There’s no denying that replacing the grandstand is probably something that would be wonderful," Mr van der Spek said.

"But at the end of the day, it comes down to the amount of funds that we end up having available - and we won’t know the amount of funds probably for a few months, early 2022 really."

The council would make a list of "needs" and "nice-to-haves", the grandstand development falling into the latter category, and was likely to run a design-build process.

"So we’ll be going out to the market, essentially saying: ‘We’ve got this fiscal envelope of 30-odd million, whatever it might be, and ... these are our absolute needs, these are nice-to-haves, this is the site, these are the things you need to consider’," he said.

"And we’ll see what the proposals come back as."

Cr Bill Kingan said one of the key themes through the submissions was the need to "get on with it".

"I think we’ve got to take that on board," he said.

"We’re never going to get it perfect for everyone, because that’s just the reality of the whole thing.

"I think we’re on a trajectory that’s as positive and progressive - so let’s keep on it."

Councillors will meet again on Monday to make a final decision on whether to proceed with the Centennial Park decision.


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