Calls for an Indoor Centre Gain Momentum

As the region looks to accelerate its recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle, many in the community are sending a message that any recovery support provided needs to include funding for an Indoor Centre in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa/Gisborne. The supporters of an indoor centre are stating that the region needs a facility with at least three-four indoor courts, amenities, and other shared spaces. Based on facilities recently completed in other regions, the supporters believe it could be done for a price tag of around $15-$20 million. 

The indoor centre would cater for sports such as basketball, volleyball, netball, futsal, pickleball, rugby, as well as for a range of other recreational and community groups and services. Many of these sports and recreational activities are experiencing significant growth at both a regional and national level. 

“We understand that our region needs significant investment in critical infrastructure such as hosuing, roads, and the safeguarding of water and power supplies. No one is arguing with that. However, there also needs to be investment in well-being facilities that will strengthen the hauora of thousands in our community for many years to come. The two can be done together,” said chief executive of Whiti Ora Stefan Pishief.  

“We’ve seen in the aftermath of covid and the cyclones how vital it was for people to get active and reconnect with one another. This hasn’t just been for physical health reasons – we can’t underestimate the positive impact sport and recreation has on mental health at a time when people need it most. Our community needs positive things to look forward to, and we need to be providing opportunities for our tamariki and rangatahi.” 

“There are a number of urgent facility needs for the region, such as establishing proper facilities for waka ama, finalising the Whakarua Park upgardes, and upgrading Victoria Domain. Yet we are making this call for an indoor centre as Tairāwhiti has the worst indoor court provision in the country per capita, and we are seeing huge issues occuring right now due to this lack of venues.” 

Tairāwhiti has one facility, with one publicly-accessible court at the YMCA for a population of 47,600 people. Some schools hire out their court spaces, but these aren’t always accessible, are over-subscribed, and generally don’t meet regulation and health and safety requirements. 

The issues with the lack of an indoor facilities is already being felt acutely. This year the Gisborne Basketball Association has had to turn away numerous teams at both secondary school and adult level. 

Gisborne Basketball Association Chairperson Kylie Turuwhenua-Tapsell said, “Due to venue capacity constraints and limited and ageing infrastructure at our current courts we had to turn away teams for the Secondary School and Club Ball Leagues this year. It’s heartbreaking to have to limit numbers for our community. On top of this we’re needing to invest our own money and people skills to maintain the spaces we do use, while paying a premium for court hire – it’s taking focus and resources away from potential growth, but is necessary with what we have to work with at the moment. 

There have been instances, like the recent weather we endured, where miniball had to be cancelled and tamariki have missed out because we could only use outdoor courts to cater for the numbers. If we had a three-court facility, we could provide our current three-day format on one evening and then extend the number of teams that can play on alternative days. This would greatly increase opportunities for our rangatahi and hāpori with less of a stretch on volunteers.” 

The development of the indoor centre would mean that clubs could expand programme offerings, increase membership, run local tournaments, host inter-regional tournaments and ultimately give more people more opportunities to be active through quality experiences. 

“We have a really active community here that are really restricted in their options to get out and be active as we don’t have a major sports facility.” said Gisborne Volleyball Club President Adam Harford. “An indoor facility would be an amazing asset for volleyball.” 

An indoor centre is also vital for a range of football activities such as Futsal. Central Football Community Development Officer Lee Smith said “ A quality indoor venue would allow a huge variety of other football related activities to take place, supporting the health and fitness of the wider community and increasing participation, including Walking Football, Freestyle and Street Football, Fitness Football and even Zumba Football.” 

The YMCA also backs the development of an indoor centre.   

“The YMCA believes  it is fundamental that we unite the strengths of Whiti Ora, the Y and other sports association in Gisborne such as netball, basketball etc to demonstrate a strong community partnership during this process,” YMCA president Priscila Muir said. 

“A joint effort for a shared goal — fostering a healthy and active community and encouraging greater participation and support from local residents.” 

The push for an indoor centre is nothing new for Tairāwhiti, with various attempts and initiatives taking place over a couple of decades. More recently, the establishment of an indoor centre was one of a number of facility requirements presented to Central Government as part of a business case/ master plan developed in partnership by the Gisborne District Council, Trust Tairāwhiti, and Whiti Ora. As of yet the funds have not been released by the Government, altghough a tender process initiated by the Gisborne District Council is currently underway to finalise the feasbility study for the centre and it’s location, as a number of viable sites have been identified. 

“Regardless of where the indoor centre ends up, as a community we can make it work. Smaller centres such as Wairoa and Te Kuiti have managed to do it and have created great facilities. Now it is time for Tairāwhiti” said Stefan Pishief. 

A community advocacy group has been formed and will be meeting with key funders, interest groups and regional leaders to push the cause for an indoor centre in the coming months. 

Image supplied by Apollo Projects for inspiration purposes.