Grassroots sporting organisations are the good-vibes glue that bring communities together. As well as the enjoyment and benefits of participating in sport, they’re places where we create connections that give us a sense of belonging. Auckland Council is helping to improve these non-council-owned facilities thanks to its Sport and Recreation Facilities Investment Fund, allocating $13 million to 18 different sporting organisations for the 2023/24 period.
Read on to find out about four organisations from across the region that are benefitting from this funding.
Raising the roof for West Auckland Riding for the Disabled
Volunteer-run organisation West Auckland Riding for the Disabled (RDA) has been providing therapeutic horse riding lessons for local families since the 1970s. Located in Henderson Valley, the team of 60 volunteers are made up of members aged from 16 to 101!
The organization helps people with a wide range of challenges, such as disabilities or special needs, from ages three to 21.
“It’s not just a pony ride for them,” says club president Norma Hayward. “We work on their range of movement, their strength, balance, spatial awareness, social skills or emotional regulations. We’ve had children who are completely non-verbal and their first words will be the command ‘walk on’ or the name of their horse.”
The club runs classes for 50 children per week, but there are normally no classes in school term three due to constant rain. But now, thanks to $1.28 million from the Sport and Recreation Facilities Investment Fund and support from other individuals and organisations, a long-held dream to build a covered facility is about to be realised.
Oratia local Ivan Nola says it’s going to be great for his nine-year-old son Oscar, who has been going to RDA for four years and whose first ever sign was “horse”.
“He’ll be able to ride all year long,” says Ivan. “He won’t get so disappointed when he looks out the window on a riding day and sees that it’s raining.”
Jack McKinlay, a young boy who attends the classes at the West Auckland RDA, speaks on his experience with the services available.
“I really like coming here because I enjoy trotting the horses. My favourite horse is Huia.”
The covered facility is due to open by April 2024 and it will allow the club to double the number of students and triple the number of classes. It will also feature seven horse stalls, a community room for hire, a small office and a therapy room where students can be assessed by a physiotherapist.
“When RDA isn’t using it, it will be available for the community to hire,” says Norma. “So equestrian groups or other sports groups can do rugby practice in the winter, beach volleyball, dog agility or anything where you need a big indoor surface,”
Rescue mission for Ōrewa Surf Life Saving Club’s premises
From a tent in 1950 to a shed to ‘proper’ clubrooms in 1960 – with various other additions over the decades – Ōrewa Surf Life Saving Club has continued to grow in size and has performed more than 1100 rescues. But their remit extends beyond the beach.
“A lot of people mistake us for just being in the water, but we are also first responders for the ambulance on Hibiscus Coast Highway,” says the club’s Membership Committee Chair Renee Beckett. During the flooding event over Auckland Anniversary weekend this year, some of the club’s trained New Zealand Search and Rescue squad also helped save people on inflatable rescue boats.
As Ōrewa has become a more popular beach destination over the years, the club has outgrown its current premises and has had to store their overflow of supplies – rescue boats, jet skis, etc. – in six large shipping containers.
Fortunately, a $2 million grant from the Sport and Recreation Facilities Investment Fund has provided cornerstone funding so the club can demolish the old building and erect a new community hub in its place.
“Without the funding, we would struggle to bring other providers and donors onto the project,” says Renee. “It’s been a work in progress and a dream to upgrade and have better facilities for many years.”
Downstairs, the new facility will have accommodation for weekday patrolling lifeguards and enough space to store gear. The community hub will be upstairs and will include a bar and restaurant that raise funds for first-aid gear, petrol for training purposes and other costs.
Renee says she sees the whole community as members of the club. “We’re all members of surf lifesaving because we all benefit from it and learn from it.”
Lighting up the courts for Auckland Netball Centre
Auckland Netball Centre in St Johns, along with its satellite venue at Windmill Park, is a major contributor to netball in New Zealand. With over 980 affiliated teams and 32,327 members and participants, it’s the largest netball centre in New Zealand.
“Our multipurpose venue is used for netball and other sporting codes, along with a variety of events held from fashion sales, quilt shows, product launches and tradeshows that attract community use,” says Auckland Netball CEO Dianne Lasenby. “Over 440,000 people come through the gates each year.”
The centre is the beneficiary of $250,000 from Auckland Council to replace indoor and outdoor lighting. “The existing bulbs were over 18 years old and 60 per cent of them were no longer working, causing health and safety issues outside,” says Dianne.
As the old bulbs could no longer be sourced, Auckland Netball is replacing them all with LED lights which will be more eco-friendly and more efficient on power consumption. The
$550,000 project is due to be completed by the end of January.
Changing things for the better at Kolmar Charitable Trust
Kolmar is a sporting hub for Manukau residents. Based in Papatoetoe, it features an international hockey turf, six tennis courts, an indoor cricket centre, bowling greens, netball courts, strength-training facilities, cricket, soccer and rugby fields and multipurpose function rooms.
With 2275 members, it is desperately in need of an upgrade to its changing room block to make it fit for purpose. At present, the closest public toilets to the training and playing fields are approximately 300m away in Kolmar’s main building where there is no external access.
Old-school showers are open rather than cubicle-style, so the facility is unable to accommodate female and male participants at the same time, requiring regular draw
re-shuffles, or female teams being forced to play away most weekends as they have no changing room access.
The Kolmar Charitable Trust has recently been successful in securing $2 million to go towards upgrading the changing rooms. Kolmar Charitable Trust General Manager Nikki Smith says that once they secure the remaining $600,000 required to go ahead, there will be multiple benefits for club members, visitors and the wider community, including more females participating in sport, an increase in youth membership and more opportunities to host sporting events, cultural events and other community events.
“This will help encourage inactive communities to become more involved in sport and recreation with more community-based events being able to be held within their local catchment on the brand-new high-quality sports fields, with appropriate facilities close by for public use,” says Nikki.
“Funding options for our sector, in particular for major building/upgrade projects, are very limited and oversubscribed. The current economic environment has also reduced the amount of funding available, making it extremely difficult, which highlights how such key investment from Auckland Council is vital.”