Support for Southland, but Clark not a rugby fan

The future of Invercargill’s Rugby Park is on shaky ground after the council decided to cease...
The future of Invercargill’s Rugby Park is on shaky ground after the council decided to cease maintenance and safety works. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clark says he will support any Southland sporting team but he personally does not like rugby as a sport to watch.

The decision by the Invercargill City Council earlier last week to halt work at the damaged Rugby Park continued to be criticised by Rugby Southland last week.

The union said the decision went against a council commissioned report in 2021 and it was enduring a constant negative perception of rugby by the mayor and former council chief executive.

Rugby Southland chairman Murray Brown and chief executive Steve Mitchell said in a statement the 2021 Otium report decision, commissioned by the council, gave Rugby Park the stamp of approval as the preferred and most logical outdoor stadium for Invercargill for the next 25 years.

"This is what Rugby Southland banked on in terms of our forward thinking for the business. ICC adopted and agreed with the finalised report," the statement said.

Six years or more of no repair and maintenance spent by the council had contributed to the current position.

There had been no council commitment to promote increased usage of the facility to raise revenue.

"Rugby Southland has been working towards an improved model of operation from Rugby Park, including a multi-use component that would provide benefit for the wider community."

There was a lack of clear communication from the council to Rugby Southland, the anchor tenant.

Instead it had to read all recent controversial decisions in the press, the union said.

Individual councillors spoke on topics which they had no understanding or background of.

The council had developed a media tower and had development plans for the corporate areas which was well above the scope required by Rugby Southland.

"There is a clear negative perception of rugby constantly mentioned by the current mayor and former chief executive of ICC," the union said.

Clare Hadley was the former council chief executive for five years from 2018-23.

The union was fully committed to continue delivering rugby opportunities to the wider Southland community, including a side in the National Provincial Championship.

Despite the recent decision, Rugby Southland would continue to create an open dialogue with council representatives and other parties towards finding a suitable solution in the future, the statement said

When contacted yesterday, Mr Clark said he was not prepared to discuss the issues with Rugby Southland through the media.

He intended to catch up with Rugby Southland officials early next week.

The council’s long-term plan discussion earlier in the week had taken up to six and seven hours.

All decisions were made wanting to keep the rates rise as low as possible so some hard decisions had to be made.

Glass recycling was also left out and the council grant to Great South was reduced.

The rate rise for the council came in at 9.8% which Mr Clark said was well below the national average rate rise this year of 15%.

"We are below 10%. Some other councils are up to 20-30%. We are working when there are a lot of cost pressures on the ratepayer, so we had to be mindful of that."

He admitted he did not like watching rugby but he had supported Rugby Southland and Rugby Park over the past three years.

"I am a strong supporter of every Southland side."