Meeting to discuss park future

Invercargill city councillor Peter Kett wants to increase the use of Rugby Park. Photo: Luisa Girao
Invercargill city councillor Peter Kett wants to increase the use of Rugby Park. Photo: Luisa Girao
Renovating Invercargill’s Rugby Park is not just about rugby, it is about investing in Southland’s future, an Invercargill city councillor says.

A meeting to discuss the future of the venue and explore its use for other community groups and events will be hosted by Cr Peter Kett on Thursday.

He invited city and sport leaders, including Invercargill mayor Tim Shadbolt, deputy mayor Toni Biddle, Rugby Southland board chairman Bernie McKone,  Rugby Southland acting general manager Simon Frisby, Rugby Southland Supporters Club president Tony Rabbitt and ILT Stadium manager and councillor Nigel Skelt.

The state of the Rugby Park also would be addressed, Cr Kett said.

Rugby Southland staff had to move out of the stadium offices in the middle of last year due to issues with the structure.

Another engineer’s report put more than 1500 seats in the main stand out of use because of worries about spectator safety.

‘‘The Rugby Park is a great community asset ... Should we save it or let it go?’’

Cr Kett said he would report back to the council the findings of this meeting, but he believed something need to be done quickly.

The termination of the contract between Invercargill City Council and Highlanders to host a Super Rugby game last year was a big loss for the city, he said.

‘‘This is an example of the necessity to sort this matter sooner than later - or we will keep missing good opportunities.’’

‘‘Rugby Park is the only multipurpose outdoor arena in Invercargill and people can go walking from town. It have a huge potential and not just for rugby. It would be a shame if council decide to not save it.’’

He would like to see games from New Zealand Warriors rugby league and Wellington Phoenix football and competitions like axemen and pipe bands.

He believed if the council addressed the matters this year, it would have a high probability for Invercargill to host for the first time an All Black test.

An Invercargill City Council spokeswoman said it had previously been estimated that bringing the affected sections of the grandstand to 100% of building standard would cost $387,000.

‘‘There are other maintenance matters to be considered - such as the issue of toxic mould having been identified in the Rugby Southland-Supporters Club areas of the facility.’’

Since 2016, the Invercargill Charitable Trust, which owns Rugby Park, has received $300,000 in funding for long-term maintenance, and as of late 2019, the trust had spent $22,128.60.

Last financial year, the Rugby Park had a profit of $31,600.

She said a report presenting options would be put to council early this year.

‘‘Any decisions regarding funding of work required on the grandstand, and the wider Rugby Park facility, will need to be made by full council.’’

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