Best of the rest: Hall of Fame moves to Dunedin (1999)

Have you visited the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame? If not, shame on you. The hall is one of Dunedin's special attractions, and a place (and organisation) that should be treasured by all New Zealand sports fans.

It is in a beautiful building, contains hundreds of fascinating and important pieces of memorabilia, and stands for a concept that, to this mind at least, should be highly valued by everyone.

It took a long time for New Zealand to get its head around the Hall of Fame idea. We are both a small country and a (generally) humble one. For a long time, a pat on the back seemed fair recognition for sporting excellence.

But, in 1990, New Zealand celebrated its sesquicentennial and hosted a Commonwealth Games, among other events. It was time to say `We are proud of ourselves'.

The New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame was established that year, and wasted no time in setting the standard. No fewer than 75 of New Zealand's greatest sporting achievers were inducted.

Inductions now take place at least every two years. There are now 167 athletes/teams/coaches/pioneers/administrators in the Hall, representing 35 sports.

Honoured members range from the obvious (Snell, Meads, Hadlee, Devoy, Wilding, Charles, Loader) to the relatively obscure (Tommy Baxter, Kate Nunneley, Randolph Rose).

The general rule is that people need to have been retired for five years from active international competition to be eligible for induction.

Inductions are decided by a panel of nine comprising three inductees, three representatives of sports and three members of the media.

The Hall of Fame website tells the story of how, until 1998, the hall was "just an office and a dream in Wellington, but after canvassing local body interest throughout New Zealand, the hall accepted the offer by the Dunedin City Council to house itself in the railway station".

Refurbishment of the upper northern wing was undertaken by the council and the hall opened to the public in July 1999.

As well as its displays, the hall - with prolific sports historian and author Ron Palenski at the helm - also sells merchandise and publishes sports books.

There has been some talk of the hall moving to the national museum, Te Papa, in Wellington. That might provide a greater platform for it to be appreciated, but it would be a sad day for Dunedin.

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