Wed, May 1, 2024 11:08 AM

Sports to remain at Blenheim park after MOE scraps college plans


Maia Hart

The council is looking to renew its lease at College Park for Marlborough Boys’ College and other sports groups to use.

The park was a critical part of Te Tātoru o Wairau, the multi-million dollar combined colleges project which the Ministry of Education canned in February due to a budget blow-out.

The cost to deliver the project had skyrocketed to more than $400 million. The budget was $170m.

As part of the project, College Park on Stephenson Street, was supposed to be used as the site to build the new Bohally Intermediate.

The ministry liked College Park because it allowed them to build the new Bohally first, before starting on the new co-located campus.

It already leased the College Park land, owned by Rangitāne o Wairau, as it was used by the boys’ college, about 300m down the road.

While hockey may use the turf on occasion, the code had a new facility at the Marlborough Girls’ College. Photo: Stuff/Supplied

The ministry then leased the land to the council, which used the site as a sporting facility, mainly for Hockey Marlborough. The Blenheim Roller Skating Club was also based there.

The council originally had a lease on College Park until 2028, which it surrendered as part of Te Tātoru o Wairau.

At an economic, finance and community committee meeting on Tuesday, council’s property and community facilities manager Jamie Lyall outlined the council’s intention to enter into a new agreement with the Marlborough Boys’ College board of trustees for the lease.

The negotiation of that lease was still being discussed, Jamie said.

“But the majority of the terms are similar,” he said.

The lease was expected to have a 12-month termination notice for both parties, but was proposed to have a 10-year term, followed by two 5-year terms, he said.

Meanwhile, the use of the turf was expected to change, given a new hockey turf had been built at the Marlborough Girls’ College before the combined colleges project was scrapped.

“Hockey may still want to use the turf, the existing infrastructure is still in place,” Jamie said.

“Council's intention is to use it as a dry turf and for our sports, predominantly football and rugby, for training on.

“[The park] will continue to be a training venue for cricket and playing cricket on the weekends.”

He said the model for college park was “sensible” as it allowed for it to be utilised.

He compared it to Lansdowne Park, Marlborough’s premier rugby pitch and netball courts, which was “empty” during the day, apart from the mower maintaining the lawn.

Marlborough Boys’ College had a lease agreement with the council to use the park. Photo: Stuff/Supplied

“That joint use of facilities just appears to make so much sense,” Jamie said.

Iwi representative RaNae Niven asked Jamie if the council knew what Rangitāne’s views were on the use of the site.

She pointed to the region’s housing shortage, and said the iwi might want the opportunity to develop the land.

But Jamie said that was between the ministry and Rangitāne. The council just leased the land from the ministry, he said.

Marlborough mayor Nadine Taylor said it was nice to see a positive come out of what had been a “gruelling process” for the colleges and wider community.

“I wish that we would have been able to see something much better for Marlborough, but it seems that we're not,” Nadine said.

“So there is a very small positive in taking that hockey turf and turning it into a dry turf for all of the other sports.”

She said she knew it was challenging for football and rugby, in particular, during winter when they were unable to train on sports fields because of the damage it might cause.

“I think at this stage all we can do is really try and retrieve what we can for the community.

“We can take back this piece of land and look after it … and make sure it is available for all our teams to use.”

The turf will likely be used by rugby and football for training. Photo: Stuff/Supplied

The committee voted in favour of the recommendation to enter into a new agreement with the Marlborough Boys’ College board of trustees for the lease of college park, although RaNae did vote against the proposal.

The council would advise the Blenheim Roller Skating Club they could remain on the site.

This was subject to full council sign off on May 16.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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