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Waiting patiently . . . Oamaru Intermediate School pupil Leilani De-La-ford gave a speech about the proposed stadium at the Waitaki District Council long-term plan hearings on Tuesday. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

A new sport and event centre in Oamaru has been the hot topic of the 2021-31 long-term plan.

At Tuesday’s long-term plan hearings, the newly-formed Waitaki Events Centre Charitable Trust put forward a compelling case to the Waitaki District Council to support the project financially.

Trust members Kevin Malcolm, Adair Craik and Deidre Senior recommended the council capped its contribution at $14million, as they provided concept drawings of the proposed six-court facility at Centennial Park, the preferred location.

While $14million was a big ask, Mr Malcolm said the group would be approaching outside funders with gusto to secure funding before the end of the year.

It was a project that would benefit the entire community – ”from the top of Macraes to just out of Twizel”, Mr Malcolm said.

“Let us inspire our community, let us inspire our youth and generations to come. I put this challenge to you – let’s become a council of rippers, really inspirational people promoting our region’s success.”

Giving a personal submission, Mrs Senior spoke through tears as she described how parents missed opportunities to watch their children play sport, with no appropriate facilities for tournaments in Oamaru.

“I feel quite passionate, as you can see, for that. They are disengaged from their kids and that’s not fair – we’re actually splitting our community, and creating those that can and those that can’t,” Mrs Senior said.

Mrs Senior, a North Otago netball stalwart and principal of Weston School, believed Waitaki children were being denied the opportunity to grow and be recognised in their chosen sports. The existing facilities did not cater to those with additional needs, and they were not big enough to hold other large events.

Speaking on behalf of the North Otago Primary Principals Association, Maheno School principal Ryan Fraser echoed Mrs Senior’s sentiments. It had been a struggle to host kaupapa festivals in Oamaru, and for the two-court Waitaki Community Recreation Centre to schedule so many sports in. Some children were finishing basketball games as late as 9.30pm, forcing many to stop playing, Mr Fraser said.

The region should be promoting recreation and physical activity for young people, and the stadium would remove the barriers.

“The children of the Waitaki district are amazing kids and they punch well above their weight. They deserve a place they can perform in, they can practise in and they can be proud of in their own home town,” Mr Fraser said.

Oamaru Intermediate School pupil Sione Tuuefiafi (12) told councillors his friends were leaving Waitaki to go to school in other districts where there were better sporting facilities, and Oamaru was losing its best athletes.

“The kids that will use this will enjoy it, and grow up, and they might become famous and pay back the council,” Sione said.

“If you want the Waitaki community to be happy, you’ll build the indoor sports centre.”

Fellow Oamaru Intermediate School pupil Leilani De-La-ford (13) told the council it should grab the opportunity to build the stadium with both hands.

“Visualise the happiness on people’s faces when they learn they can train indoors for any sports, any time, or even attend an event right here in the community,” Leilani said.

Oamaru lost out on large functions as it could not host them, and a stadium would eliminate those problems and add revenue to the district from those attending from out of town, submitters said.

Many other submitters supported the council financially supporting a stadium, but expressed concerns about the preferred location of Centennial Park. Others thought the council’s contribution should be less than the amounts set out in the consultation document.