Turf car parks loan could be wiped

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The Eastern Southland Hockey Association looks likely to have an interest-free loan wiped by the Gore District Council.

The council granted the loan for 10 years in 2010.

The balance of the loan is $62,202, which councillors recommended be turned into a grant. The decision has to be ratified by the full council.

The loan was granted to the association so it could build 21 car parks at the Gore Multisports Complex, where it had built a water-based turf.

Councillors acknowledged last week not just turf patrons used the association’s car park.

“It’s turned into a public car park and everybody uses it,” Cr Graham Sharp said.

Cr Ralph Beale said the council had painted itself into a corner by giving out interest-free loans not only to the hockey association but also to entities such as the St James Theatre Trust.

A loan to the theatre was also converted into a grant.

Cr Neville Phillips said while he was in favour of converting the debt, he would have liked to have seen some of it paid off before the association had made an application to the council to have it written off.

Chief executive Steve Parry said the council approved interest-free loans to the St James Theatre Trust in 2007 for its new fly tower at the theatre, for $50,000 and $250,000.

Those loans were also written off.

“Therefore it is fair to suggest that the council has, through its more recent decisions, changed its stance on the merits of pursuing collection of interest-free loans as distinct from conversion to a grant,” Mr Parry said.

Eastern Southland Hockey property delegate representative Vince Ainsley said wiping the loan for the car parks was a good move.

“When we built the hockey turf, the contribution from the council was given as a loan so we could pay for the car parks needed within the resource consent,” Mr Ainsley said.

“Certainly, at the time we were very grateful. I mean that was $62,000 we didn’t need to come up with at the time.”

Mr Ainsley said the car parks served a greater purpose than just being used by turf patrons.

“We’ve proven ourselves, really .. we get no help from the council and are independent, we pay our own power and our own insurance and are completely run by volunteers. We are running our own organisation.”

Mr Ainsley said the turf had many benefits for the community.

“The turf actually raised our junior numbers from 40 kids to 380 .. it has also hosted a secondary school tournament each year, too.”

The turf’s car parks were not cheap to put in so having the debt wiped made everything a bit easier, he said.

“We are certainly grateful not to have to pay that loan back. That would have eaten into our reserves; now we can save to extend our pavilions and for re-laying a new surface in seven or eight years.”