Squash club has had enough
“Frustrated and disappointed” Kerikeri Squash Club members say they’ve had enough of waiting for progress on a new place to play more than two years after fire damaged their clubrooms.
The club has been in limbo since the Kerikeri Domain pavilion was damaged by arson in June 2016. It was originally built by the town’s rugby and squash clubs, with rugby moving to a new base next to the Heritage Bypass in 2010.
Until the fire the building was used by the squash club, which had two courts, changing rooms and a kitchen, as well as rugby league, as a youth drop-in centre and by other groups. Only squash had a financial stake in it.
Squash club president Dave Collins told a Far North District Council meeting that before the fire the club had 150 members, had been growing fast, and needed to expand.
After the blaze, when it seemed repairing the pavilion would not be viable, the club wanted to use its share of the insurance money to build a new four-court facility at the Kerikeri Sports Complex. However, in mid-2017, with the damage apparently not as bad as first thought, the council reversed its decision to demolish the pavilion and opted to rebuild it instead.
The club would be able to apply for consent to expand its end.
Mr Collins said the club didn’t agree with the decision, but accepted it as a solution to its predicament.
However, no progress had been made since then, and it had become clear that expanding the pavilion would need be approved through the Domain Management Plan process. That situation meant it was far from guaranteed, and would take until mid-2019 at best.
It had also emerged that the damage was serious after all, pushing up the cost of the rebuild, by the squash club’s estimate, to close to $1 million.
After almost two and a half years in limbo it was unfair to make the club wait even longer for clarity about the pavilion’s future, he said.
He urged councillors to throw out their earlier decision to rebuild the pavilion and give the club its share of the insurance money so it could build a new facility elsewhere. If insurance replaced “like for like”, the club would raise the extra money needed for four courts instead of two.
Committee member Terre Spooner said squash had been marginalised by the council, with the effects going well beyond Kerikeri. The Domain pavilion had been used as a central point where Kaitaia, Kamo and Whanga¯rei clubs could meet, but Kaitaia players now had to travel long distances for inter-club competition.
The issue was discussed later, in the public-excluded section of the meeting, mayor John Carter saying council staff were still gathering information that would be presented to the December meeting.
He understood the club’s frustration.
“They have every right to feel frustrated . . . It’s fair to say, at the beginning both parties were responsible for some of the delays, but now we probably haven’t moved as rapidly as we could have,” he said.
The Kerikeri Domain pavilion has been boarded up since a fire in June 2016.