In politics there occasionally is an issue which proves the old cliche: ‘‘You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t’’.
The Home of Cycling request for $6 million from the regional community for the National Cycling Centre of Excellence, including a velodrome, is one such issue.
The velodrome debate polarised the Waikato with many passionately for the proposal or equally passionate against it.
I voted for the proposal. The Waikato Regional Council had done a strategic review and one of our flagship goals was to facilitate regional development. The Sport and Recreation time frame for a council decision on contributing to the project moved this proposal to the top of the list of projects we were considering.
To my mind, this was a once in a life time opportunity for the Waikato to secure another piece of significant sporting infrastructure which other regions were chomping at the bit to get.
With rowing already centred here and with the new centre coming, the Waikato region is forming a hub of sporting excellence.
Thank you to all the South Waikato people who made submissions, either for or against. I listened carefully to what people had to say, including the two district councils in my constituency. There were more support submissions from the South Waikato than against as was the telephone survey.
Of the two district councils, South Waikato submitted against the proposal but Rotorua’s mayor wrote to me requesting I support the proposal and his council supported the $3.18 per property per year rate. Rotorua has a strong cycling culture and cycling events, and understands the huge economic impact events such as the World Mountain Biking championships bring to the region. Now that the decision has been made I will be keeping a close eye on the development of the final conditions attached to the regional council’s funding.
But I am also very keen to ensure the centre works as it should. Sport is an essential ingredient in the ‘‘glue’’ that holds our country together. The Rugby World Cup, for example, has boosted spirits across the country and encouraged young people to emulate their sporting heroes.
The cycling centre and velodrome can only strengthen sport in our region.