The results of a telephone survey and submissions reveal the community is split over whether Waikato Regional Council should contribute to construction of a national cycling centre of excellence.
The council is considering a $6 million funding request from the Home of Cycling Trust to build the centre, including a velodrome, next to St Peter’s School near Cambridge.
Council chief executive Bob Laing said the funding request had generated an unprecedented community response, with just under 7000 submissions being collated and analysed by staff over the past week.
“The council expected that people with strong views for and against the proposal would take the opportunity to express their opinions through the submission process,” Mr Laing said.
“So it also commissioned an independent survey to provide a representative and statistically valid gauge of public opinion on this issue.
“The submissions show a 60-40 split against the proposal, while the telephone survey shows a split almost right down the middle, with half definitely supporting the velodrome and half definitely against it.
“The council now has a tough decision to make, knowing that whatever the outcome, about half the community will be disappointed.”
The Versus Research telephone survey of 1000 Waikato residents (89 per cent ratepayers and 11 per cent non-ratepayers) showed 48 per cent of people oppose funding the cycling centre, and 44 per cent support funding it. Eight per cent are unsure.
Those who supported the funding request said it was an affordable rates increase and the centre was of benefit to the greater community.
The majority of those people who opposed funding the centre did so because they felt rates were already too high and that it was for elite sports people only.
If the centre is to go ahead, 40 per cent would prefer to pay a flat rate, 31 per cent want those living nearest the centre to pay a greater amount and 25 per cent said they did not want to pay either option. Four per cent were unsure.
People were asked whether they, or anybody in their household, would use the centre. Seventy-six per cent of residents said nobody in their household would participate in the activities at the cycling centre and 65 per cent said nobody in their household would attend events at the centre.
The survey had a +/-3.1 per cent margin of error meaning that if a result showed 50 per cent then there is a 95 per cent probability that the true answer falls between 46.9 per cent and 53.1 per cent.
In comparison, of the 6861 submissions received by the council during the month-long consultation, 4179 (60.91 per cent) opposed the proposal and 2673 (38.96 per cent) supported it. Twenty-seven submitters did not indicate either way.
The majority of the submissions were received from Waikato residents, with 484 (7.05 per cent) coming from outside the Waikato region, including Manawatu, Bay of Plenty, Auckland and overseas.
In the majority of submissions where a preferred funding option was identified, 1865 (71 per cent) supported a region-wide flat rate of $3.18 per annum for 20 years.
About 180 people or organisations indicated they wished to be heard over two days of hearings to be held next Tuesday and Wednesday at the council’s Hamilton East offices. Matamata-Piako, Hauraki, Waipa and Rotorua district councils have indicated they would like to be heard.
Some of the main themes from submitters who opposed the proposal were:
- additional rates increases were unaffordable
- it would be an elite facility for a few sportspeople
- not Waikato Regional Council core business
- prefer other areas such as buses, pest control or cycleways to be priority funded
- concerns over debt burden and ongoing costs of existing events and facilities such as the V8s, Claudelands and Waikato Stadium
- distrust over cost/benefit assumptions provided by the Home of Cycling Trust
- should be user pays.
Some of the main themes from submitters who supported the proposal were:
- one-off opportunity for the region
- worthwhile facility that will be good for the region
- economic benefits
- inspires an interest in cycling
- promotes health and improved wellbeing
- opportunity to turn the Waikato into a sporting hub
- affordable, as only a small contribution per property required.
When the council meets later this month it will take into consideration the survey and consultation results, and will also be considering the additional research which has been carried out over the past two months, Mr Laing said.
Council staff have been reviewing critical success factors for velodromes and comparing them with the Home of Cycling proposal. At the same time, work has been independently conducted on an economic impact assessment.
The findings are expected to be finalised in the next week and will be made publicly available ahead of the extraordinary council meeting scheduled for Wednesday, 14 September.