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‘Courtesy call’ on bowlers likely too little too late

Flagstaff Team

Frustrated five… Bruce Woodley, Alan Wright, Graham Ward, Graham Seamark and Ken Harper hope their club can survive

Bowlers hoping to save their club played host to three members of the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board the day after the board made a decision not to renew their lease.

Members Trish Deans, Ruth Jackson and Jan O’Connor went to the club out of “courtesy” after they unsuccessfully tried to give the bowlers a lifeline at the board’s April meeting.

The Takapuna Services and Social Bowling Club, at 2 Mary Poynton Cres, has just 12 members, down from 20 in 2017 when a council officials review was begun into its continued occupancy of council land at a peppercorn rent. The club was no longer viable, the review found.

“Turning up on white horses is not fixing anything, it is just delaying,” member Toni van Tonder cautioned the Heart of the Shore trio at the board’s meeting last week. They wanted the decision over the lease deferred to allow for more consultation, but other members voted against their amendment.

Chairman Aidan Bennett used his casting vote to break a resulting 3-3 deadlock. This allowed for the passing of a motion based on the recommendation of officials to end the lease, with six months’ notice, and to call for expressions of interest in future community use of the site.

Club secretary Bruce Woodley later told the Observer the club was solvent and wanted to stay on. “We pay our way.” Members had spent an enormous amount on an artificial green and floodlights, did all maintenance and continued to seek new members. “Until I see someone show an interest [in the site] the council should bugger off,” he said.

Jackson told the Observer her trio had not given the club false hope on their visit, but wanted to pay the bowlers the courtesy of a face-to-face meeting. “They really do want to hang onto the club, but if that is feasible I don’t know.” She was not sure what might be done next, but as incoming chair, taking over from Bennett, would consider options.

“It’s been a poor way to treat a community group, but the end result [after more time] might be the same.”

The neighbouring RSA closed in 2016, which added pace to the fall in the club’s numbers. Council officials say it does not have proper clubroom facilities or enough members to be sustainable. Woodley says members play two to three times a week. The council has spent far too much time putting its “sticky nose” in, he maintains.

With the Glenfield club recently closing and Devonport having done so a couple of years ago, options for bowlers were dwindling. Woodley said his club was open to a shared-use arrangement.

Bennett told the board, it had a duty to ensure community assets were well used. Deputy chairperson George Wood said it was a “sad saga” but the bowlers could not say they had not been consulted. “If we put it off for another month we will be in the same situation.”

Council officials reported that they had held five or six meetings with the group over the last few years, plus further informal and email communication. Before the vote, Jackson urged all board members to take up the bowlers’ invitation to visit. She said she was not criticising officials, but wanted to do the decent thing of having the board itself meet the bowlers. Van Tonder wanted to know how the invitation had come about. O’Connor said she had alerted the bowlers that their lease was on the agenda and suggested they go to the board meeting to put their case.

Officials said they too had advised the club of the meeting. It was also told in late 2021 that their recommendation would be to end the lease. Jackson said the bowlers later told her they had not attended the board meeting because they thought it would be futile. Instead they emailed O’Connor to suggest the board meet them at the club.

O’Connor asked why Bennett had visited the club in January, without the rest of the board knowing or being invited to go too. Bennett said as chair he undertook a number of duties. Overall, it was governance, said Bennett, that was the role of the board, rather than members, himself included, getting into the nitty gritty to sort things out ourselves.

It was a theme he returned to in his final chair’s monthly report, saying he feared division in approach and a reluctance to accept change would blight the board’s ability to make the best decisions around tough issues including looking at asset sales.

“While our heritage, history and sentiment must play a part, it must not dominate our thinking as we make decisions for our community. I question whether we have this balance right.”

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