Is this the deal of the century? The government enables the racing industry to ask the Avondale Jockey Club (AJC) to hand over the Avondale Racecourse - which is the club’s private property - to the industry body. The racing industry can then sell the land and pocket the estimated $300 million. The AJC gets…nothing. That is one sweet deal for one of them.
The winds of change are blowing through the derelict old public stand at Avondale Racecourse. The beleaguered Avondale Jockey Club is in a David and Goliath battle for survival. The AJC is an incorporated society with about 250 mainly older members. A good race day sees about 400 people at the course. In recent years the club has struggled to produce an annual cash surplus, but now the existence of the club is under threat because they own about 30 hectares of prime Auckland real estate. The land could be worth $300 million and has no significant debt or encumbrances.
Since their first race day meeting on Saturday 26 April 1890, the club has overcome many difficulties, but now a plan has been produced from the highest levels of government to take their assets without compensation.
The 2018 Messara Report proposed radical changes. Patronage at racecourses is in free fall and racing is facing strong competition from overseas sports betting. The NZ racing industry is already undergoing huge structural reform and in May it was bailed out by the government with a $72.5m emergency rescue package. Most of this was needed to pull the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA), which operates the TAB, back from imminent insolvency. "Of the immediate grant, $26 million will be used by RITA to pay its outstanding supplier bill, which it hasn't been able to do because of strangled revenue," Minister of Racing, Winston Peters said.
The Racing Industry Bill is currently working its way through parliament. It is expected to be passed into law before the September election. A significant part of the bill deals with how to take over assets from about fifteen racecourses nationwide that are deemed to be surplus to industry needs. The mainly provincial tracks have minimal capital value, but Avondale is the massive exception.
The racing reforms will be mainly paid for by declaring Avondale racecourse to be surplus and sold, with the proceeds “transferred” to the racing industry. The AJC, the Avondale community and West Auckland are expected to cover the cost of nationwide reforms that will benefit even the well-off clubs like Ellerslie and Cambridge. The result that Avondale gets is that we will lose 30ha of open green space, ten sports fields, and the venue for the iconic Avondale Markets. The Whau Ward already has one of the lowest ratios of green space of any ward in the city.
A select committee reviewed the bill and there was significant concern expressed about the provisions for asset transfers. Several specific protections would require the Minister to consider whether there are special circumstances regarding the use of the surplus venue by the community, including not-for-profit use and historic donations of land made to the venue by the community. It is doubtful that any of the nine proposed conditions apply to Avondale. If agreement is not reached, then a reviewer can be appointed to go through the issues. Failing agreement, then an Order in Council can be made taking the assets.
Another criterion for club dissolution and transfer of assets to the racing industry is that the club is deemed to be no longer racing by not holding a race day for two years. The irony is that clubs who wish to race are now being denied race days in the coming season calendar by RITA. How can a club stay active if it is not allowed to host races? Along with fifteen other clubs, Avondale has been excluded from the calendar.
The AJC had already felt like the unwanted relative after previous discrimination. They had fought industry attempts to close the track in 2008-2009. The lucrative weekend profit sharing race days were taken away and AJC was left with the minor midweek races that were only expected to break even. Their season was progressively shortened. Fixtures were reduced from fifteen race days in 2015 to twelve race days in the following two seasons. Then last season there were only nine race days – the lowest possible level under the NZ Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) funding model. Now there might never be another horse on the track.
Unlike weekend races where clubs get a commission for on-course betting, there is neutral income from holding weekday racing as AJC Treasurer Tracey Berkahn explains: “NZTR’s policy that drives racing activity, applying to all racetracks in New Zealand, is a ‘command model’ designed to achieve various outcomes, including that clubs holding weekday events (‘industry days’) break even on those days and generate no income for themselves. For Avondale JC (and many others) commissions for the club from the level of on-course betting are non-existent.”
It is mind-boggling that 180 years after the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, that now in 2020 there is a brand new law being passed to enable private property to be acquired with no compensation by the Crown on behalf of a government regulated sporting code. New Zealand has spent three decades working through trying to redress other historic injustices so why create new ones where private property rights are extinguished without compensation?
The only dissent on the review committee was from the Green Party who added a minority view:
The Green Party acknowledges the almost one-quarter of submitters who raised important concerns about Subpart 2 of the bill, allowing the Minister to approve the transfer of assets and “surplus” venues from a local club to the racing industry. The committee heard very strong opposition from many country clubs, in particular, who are largely sustained by their local communities and who fiercely dispute the view that they are a drain on the industry as a whole.
We heard different visions for the future of racing in Aotearoa New Zealand: one that embraces a diversity of racecourses and supports trainers and community participation around the country, and another more heavily invested in a smaller number of “strategic” venues providing all-weather tracks and high-stake races. A majority of submitters, who are less likely to be negatively affected by any transfer of assets, supported the second view. There is a very clear disagreement within the industry that needs to be resolved, and is not, in our view, convincingly resolved by the evidence. The Green Party believes industry leaders need to better engage with and understand the role and value of smaller clubs within the industry as a whole as well as their communities.
It really is starting to look like the AJC is doomed. The Racing Industry Bill reflects the New Zealand First Party policy on racing. This policy is part of the Coalition Agreement that put Labour into power. Winston Peters is Minister of Racing and he is the sponsor of the Bill. As Minister, he will be making the decisions on club asset transfers once the bill is passed into law.
Deborah Russell, MP for New Lynn, wants to retain some of the community use of the site. In June 2019 she said that her major concern was protecting community amenities such as sports facilities and the markets based at the site. Beacon asked her how this could be achieved politically, and Deborah responded that as a back-bench MP, she has limited options. The reality is that even the Prime Minister could be unable to prevent the sacrifice of the AJC without destabilising the coalition government.
At Auckland Council level, the property arm Panuku has been foreshadowing the conversion of the racecourse into higher density housing. Panuku’s Avondale Town Centre Regeneration plan 2017 looked at the AJC site’s strategic value for a quality master planned development. In the interim a specific proposal was that connections to Avondale would be created to future proof access should that area need to be developed.
Cr Tracy Mulholland, Whau Ward, has championed the development of a council pool and recreation centre. Last term, $105 million was provisioned for this over the next decade. Acquiring part of the racecourse land would be an ideal opportunity to lock this project in as part of the Avondale town centre redevelopment. It would be another slap in the face to Avondale ratepayers though if they had to buy the land back once it was transferred to the racing industry.
The racecourse saga is rapidly gaining momentum with a range of possible buyers lining up to profit from the misfortune of the AJC. Politicians also want to be seen to be advancing the housing development of the racecourse. The only certainty is that there will be little if any green space left if the land is developed for intensive housing. The Kainga Ora proposal for 236 new apartments for Highbury Triangle is one example. Development of apartments up to 12 floors on the similar sized 28ha Unitech site in Mt Albert also show how it could work out as the future of Avondale.
With the likely changes to the racecourse there could be positives for the racing industry and for the ongoing redevelopment of Avondale, but at what cost to the AJC and local people?
Vinod Kumar’s dad was a canny businessman. He couldn’t read or write, but that didn’t seem to be a problem. He knew tailoring, and he knew people, and he knew what they wanted. He could see gaps in the market and trends in fashion, and would set out to meet those needs before they were known.
Dad though, had the foresight of educating his children.
As a young man Vinod came to Auckland in 1975 to study civil engineering, returning seven years later with his degree and a couple of years’ internship under his belt to take up a position with Fletcher Construction on the Denarau project. He loved the work and never counted the hours.
After four years Vinod applied for permanent residency in New Zealand, but always with the intention to eventually return to the ‘good life’ in Fiji. He began working for Hawkins in January 1987, then in May that year Fiji was thrown into turmoil with the coup d’état led by Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka. It was decided after watching events unfold that the remaining family – Vinod’s parents and siblings – should move to New Zealand.
Two years later the recession of 1989 hit. He couldn’t afford to buy a home with interest rates at 23%, so he decided to build his own home. He purchased land in Blockhouse Bay and designed and built it over 18 months after work and at weekends, with a budget of $50,000. Upon completion it was valued at $250,000.
Vinod knew it was only a matter of time before he lost his job, so with the future in mind - and despite his wife’s doubts – he purchased a Mitre 10 store in Henderson using his house as collateral. His thinking was that as an engineer he knew hardware, so he could sell it.
Turns out he could, and his business grew, eventually outgrowing the premises. Vinod then built the first purpose-built Mitre 10 in the country. He started importing at a time when Mitre 10 was 100% buying local, introducing kitchens, flooring and lighting departments, and imported Formica benchtops from the UK. He got a local factory to build the kitchen cabinets. Kitchens became one of the top five departments in Mitre 10.
Vinod then built a Mitre 10 in Westgate. It was the first business in the area, virtually sitting alone in a paddock, but Vinod predicted that its would do well because of its proximity to farmers in the area. Turns out he was right about that too. Mark Gunton had plans to build the Westgate shopping centre some years later, but brought his plans forward because the Mitre 10 store was doing so well.
Then Bunnings came along. Mitre 10 originated in Australia and had 650 stores there, all privately owned. When Bunnings came on the scene, they closed down one by one.
Vinod called all the Auckland region owners together and asked them, “Who’s going to close their shop first?” He had a plan to fight Bunnings by importing in bulk and working together. The team travelled the world looking at big box stores eventually coming up with the concept of Mitre 10 Mega, and Vinod put his hand up to build the first one. Mitre 10 are still ahead of Bunnings today.
Over the years Vinod gathered many contacts from his travels around the world, and for several years nurtured the idea of opening a furniture store – he even had the land. He sold out of Mitre 10 and set about financing his next big idea. In spite of his solid history, no banks would lend him the money to build the massive furniture and homeware retail store he had in mind.
He decided to sell the property and use that to finance the operations. A syndicate of 250 mum and dad investors were found, and Nido was finally on its way.
With a ten-year incubation from idea to opening, Nido, the biggest retail store in the country finally opened its doors in Henderson on Queen’s Birthday Weekend.
The whole Kumar family is involved in operations: Daughter Akshita is head of marketing, her husband Paresh is head of retail and customer experience and her sister Rachna looks after payroll. Vinod’s brother is a buyer and investor, sister Sunita is a chartered accountant and her husband Pravin is head of IT. This is a family with a very useful skill base!
Sitting with this softly spoken Lynfield man in a local café, now poised on the biggest venture of his life, hearing him describe his time spent in his dad’s tailor shop in Lautoka, Fiji and it’s not hard to see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Over ten years ago I discovered monarchs sheltering in a tall macrocarpa tree (Cupressus macrocarpa) during the winter in the Blockhouse Bay Recreational Reserve. Several other people, including Dennis Lincoln, were keen to make the area more attractive for the butterflies so volunteers have been working hard to beautify a small area of bush, eliminating weeds and planting host plants and flowers.
The Whau Local Board has been very supportive and a group of Year 12-13 students from Auckland International College have come weekly as part of their International Baccalaureate diploma programme. The school aims to educate the whole person and one component is that they must give their time to provide service to others in the community.
We also get tremendous support from retailers such as Daltons (compost and bark chip) and Bunnings (stakes and bulbs) to name a few.
The long, hot summer gave us an opportunity to cover weeds with cardboard and mulch. Most of the persistent weeds (like wild strawberry and buttercup) are smothered and the combination of carbon and nitrogen feeds the soil.
Amongst the swan plants are Muehlenbeckia (for the coppers) and clover (for the blues) as well as flowering plants… all for the butterflies.
An interpretative sign (including ‘Please don’t pick the flowers’) was installed last month.
The next working bee is scheduled for 10am Sunday 12 July. We have organised some interesting speakers who will talk to us about rats, the Whau River, the iNaturalist app, and butterflies. If the weather’s wet we will meet at the tennis club.
If you are keen to help out in this garden, please contact the volunteer group via Facebook: “Blockhouse Bay Recreation Reserve Butterfly Habitat”.
Jacqui Knight, AKA Madam Butterfly
Kāinga Ora is playing its part in the regeneration of Avondale’s town centre by confirming its plans to build a new housing development for older people known as Highbury Triangle. Deputy Chief Executive Construction and Innovation Patrick Dougherty says it’s exciting to have recently lodged resource consent for this significant development.
“Kāinga Ora tenants, just like the rest of the population, are living longer,” Patrick says. “As well as providing warm and dry homes, this complex has been specifically designed to meet the health, social, and wellbeing needs of our older tenants.”
The development, which is located between Great North Road and Community Lane, is expected to include 236 homes, which will predominately be made up of a state housing complex for older people, alongside a component of market homes and commercial space.
It will be contained within five apartment buildings, spanning six to eight levels. Four of the apartment blocks, or 81 percent of the development, will be retained for state housing. These homes enable tenants to live independently, or with some assistance, as required.
The proposed operating model includes day-to-day management of the buildings and a linkage manager who can refer tenants to specialist care providers. The four state housing blocks and all exterior areas will be accessible for people with mobility needs. The development will also include adaptable design for people with deafness or hearing needs, intellectual or developmental disabilities, mental health disabilities, learning disabilities or vision loss.
A large community room will provide opportunities for residents to socialise and undertake activities. This includes a lounge room, an open plan commercial kitchen, an arts and crafts room and private meeting rooms. There will also be smaller community spaces in the other state apartment blocks, as well as shared gardens and exercise areas. “The development, which borders the town centre, is ideal for this sort of smart, compact design,” Patrick says. “What’s more, it complements Panuku Development Auckland’s plans to regenerate central Avondale.”
Panuku Development’s Priority Location Director (West) John Carter agrees. “Highbury Triangle will provide quality housing options and forms part of the joined up approach to regeneration being undertaken by Kāinga Ora and Panuku. We look forward to working with Kāinga Ora on Highbury Triangle, and other Avondale projects, to ensure great outcomes which meet the needs of this vibrant and diverse community,” he says.
Highbury Triangle, which is expected to be completed in mid-2022, will enable Kāinga Ora to replace several ageing complexes across Avondale and Blockhouse Bay. This will free up five hectares of land for new Government housing. We will be exploring options for the best use of this land.
Give a Kid a Blanket started in 2015 as a Community Activated Art Action, conceived and lead by artists Donna Turtle Sarten & Bernie Harfleet. The project has gone from strength to strength and is now a non-profit registered charity.
With the help of the community of kindness that has gathered around the project they collect blankets and other items of warmth and care, and gift them to kids and their families through service providers such as police, public health nurses, and social and community workers.
Since 2015 they have gifted over 60,000 blankets and over 40,000 other objects of warmth and care. They also support North Shore and Auckland Hospitals’ intensive care units with family support packs.
There is now also a Givealittle page to support the costs of running the project. It’s very easy to find and donate, just go to www.givealittle.co.nz and search “give a kid a blanket”.
With what is predicted to be an even harder winter for many kids in our country, with families facing the winter cold in cars, garages, sleep outs and damp cold housing, they hope to be able to help more families keep warm this winter.
If you would like to be part of this project contact Donna and Bernie at email@example.com or through Facebook, “Give a kid a Blanket”.
There are numerous drop-off points around the city for donations, and a list is available on their Facebook page. Here are some local ones:
All donations need to be bagged or boxed, and all pre-loved donations must be washed.
Collections will finish this year on 19th July.
Kai Avondale is a group which connects the community with food initiatives in Avondale. The group, run by Anne Riley, uses Facebook to update locals on the various free food outlets in the area.
One of the most regular and generous contributors to Kai Avondale are the New Lynn Lions. Over the past couple of months, the Lions have twice donated several hundred dollars’ worth of groceries to support the work that Kai Avondale does in feeding people with low food security.
This has been particularly welcomed with the increase in demand brought about by Covid-19.
“There are some families out there where both parents have lost their jobs and are really struggling, so we were happy to help”, said New Lynn Lions President Liane Sloane.
The food initiatives Kai Avondale are directly connected to include:
Lions Club of New Lynn and Kai Avondale each have Facebook pages and invite the public to check them out. If you have some time to volunteer in your local community, they will welcome your help.
A piece of the Whau’s history has been salvaged following the restoration of a gravestone in St Ninians Cemetery in Avondale.
The headstone, from the grave of Maggie Franklin, who died aged 36 in 1910, had broken into three fragments and was cracked and dirty. Upon learning about the damage, Whau Local Board arranged for the grave to be restored.
Maggie Franklin was born in Glasgow in 1874, the daughter of George Booklass and Annie Harrison Hope. The Booklass family emigrated to Wellington in 1875, then travelled to Australia.
Maggie met her husband Alfred Edward Franklin there, and journeyed back to New Zealand with him, settling in Avondale around 1905. They lived somewhere on the "Methuen Hamlet", one of the early workman's settlements established in Avondale in the early 1900s. Their son Frank Gordon Franklin was born in Avondale.
Sadly, Maggie died suddenly in 1910, aged just 36, from “asthma” and “cardiac insufficiency”, lasting just one day. Her husband Alfred Franklin took the family back to Australia, never to return.
Whau Local Board Chair Kay Thomas welcomed the restoration of the grave.
“While Maggie isn’t a ‘famous’ Avondale resident, her grave is by the road, clearly visible in a small graveyard and it is a little bit of our history. “I’m really pleased we were able to restore it; I know the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society were very keen for it to happen and so to have been able to restore this gravestone underlines our commitment to preserve our heritage.”
The grave has been cleaned, with the Headstone put back together with missing letters replaced and repairs also undertaken where there were cracks in the concrete.
Helping her out one more time
Lisa Truttman, from the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society was also delighted with the restoration.
“We felt that it was important that Maggie's grave be fixed up, the community she came to live in helping her out one more time in a way.
“We were prepared to enter into the process of fundraising and approached council only for information and permission as it is council property. As it turned out, the council went ahead and did the work, helping to preserve a part of our smallest graveyard, and honouring the settlers.
“History isn't just about the famous, the notable - it's also about the ordinary lives, those who came to a place, lived day by day, sent their children to school and baked their bread. Then, sadly, died far too early, and left behind simply a stone in a graveyard to remind anyone they were ever there.”
Reprinted with permission from Our Auckland
In 2018, a group of Blockhouse Bay Primary students helped design a new play-space to replace a playground at the school that was well-loved, but past its useful life. The group of Year 3 students wanted to create an area that was nice to be in at break times, and also a restful and inspiring place to work outside during learning time.
Their plan was presented to and approved by the Board of Trustees, and the FAB (Fundraisers at Blockhouse Bay) team went about raising the money for the project.
Over the next 18 months, FAB organised and ran lots of events such as movie nights, discos, ice-block sales, a marathon, and of course, the annual school galas. As always, these events were very well supported by the staff and school community, as well as the school's major sponsor, Barfoot and Thompson Blockhouse Bay.
The fundraising committee was able to contribute over $120,000 for the new area, with the school providing the funding for the earthworks and shade sail.
The new play-space is a wonderful addition to the school's facilities and will no doubt be a popular place to learn, play and relax.
Some of our incredible community members were awarded honours for their service to others in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list which was announced last month.
Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) now include New Lynn’s Mary Holm for services to Financial literacy education, while Susan Sherrard from Blockhouse Bay is now a Member of the New Zealand order of merit (MNZM) for services to people with disabilities.
We congratulate them on their awards and extend our thanks for their service to New Zealand communities.
Ms Mary Holm is a bestselling author and columnist who has written extensively about personal finance and contributed toward ensuring the financial literacy of ordinary New Zealanders.
Ms Holm holds an MBA in finance and has been a journalist, media commentator, seminar presenter and lecturer on personal finance for more than 40 years. She has been a weekly columnist for the New Zealand Herald since 1998 and features on Radio New Zealand each fortnight to talk about how New Zealanders can better manage their finances.
In 2018, she wrote Rich enough? A laid-back guide for every Kiwi, which was a number one bestseller for seven weeks. She has written three books on KiwiSaver and helped develop tools for the sorted.org.nz financial advice website. She is noted for her ability to convey complex financial matters in plain and simple terms to ordinary New Zealanders.
Ms Holm was a founding director of the Financial Markets Authority from 2011 to 2019, a director of the Banking Ombudsman Scheme from 2010 to 2016, and has been a member of a range of advisory groups and government bodies responsible for financial regulation and literacy.
Ms Susan Sherrard worked for CCS Disability Action for 14 years and was their Auckland Local Advisory Committee Chair from 1999 to 2007.
She volunteered for CCS Disability Action’s Disability Leadership Committee, where she was instrumental in the creation of the Disability Leadership Framework, supporting the organisation in connecting authentically with people with disabilities and building trusting relationships that nurtures leaders nationally.
The National Disability Leadership Strategy that she helped to develop and implement has led to 25 percent of CCS Disability Action’s staff being people with disabilities. Ms Sherrard founded the Disabled Women’s Forum in 2009 and was a key member of the Domestic Violence and Disability Group, and the Northern B Health and Disability Ethics Committee.
Ms Sherrard has been a member of the Auckland Disability Law Steering Committee, the Waitemata DHB Disability Support Advisory Committee, and the Auckland Council’s Disability Advisory Panel.
She now works for Te Pou o Te Whakaaro Nui as a project lead in their disability workforce development team.
“If you had asked me a few months ago about Morse code, signalling flags and semaphore, I would have said they are outmoded and no longer relevant in modern society”, says Andrew, one of the New Lynn Scout Group leaders. But when he found himself teaching Morse code online to the Keas (5-8-year olds) during lockdown, he realised these old-school communication techniques from the past weren’t so dusty after all.
Using Lego blocks to represent the dots and dashes of Morse code, the Keas learned how to spell their names. Add the idea of a torch to the mix to signal the letters with flashes and you have happy Keas running around in the dark with torch in hand for hours on end. Over the following weeks they also learned how to communicate using signalling flags and semaphore signals.
For the older Scouts and Venturers, lockdown meant missing the eagerly awaited Auckland Regatta in April. So out came the tarpaulins, and shelters were built in back yards so they could still ‘camp’ on regatta weekend. Despite this, withdrawal symptoms from being off the water soon set in.
The solution: an online virtual regatta.
Just after midday each day of the school holidays, three 6-7minute races were sailed, along with a weekend race series covering four weekends. The online racing had all the wind shifts, wind gusts, rules of the road at sea, and even the odd dolphin jumping out of the water as they used courses set up in different harbours around the globe - and all from the comfort and safety of home.
In this futuristic world of virtual reality, the usual roles got turned on their heads as it soon became clear who was teaching whom; while Andrew is used to being at the front of the fleet in real boats, it was the younger Scouts with the least time on the water who dominated the virtual sailing. Andrew also suspects they slowed down on a few occasions to let him sail past, just so he was not always last over the finish line!
The New Lynn Sea Scout Group caters for boys and girls aged 5 - 19 years. So if you want a slice of the action on the water, or to go camping and explore the awesome adventure playground that we are blest with out West, then give Andrew a call on 027 6939 756 or check out www.newlynn.seascouts.org.nz for more details.
Captions for slideshow:
Fletcher and Marshal built a makeshift shelter while Mackenzie pitched a tent to go ‘camping’ for Auckland Regatta Weekend.
ANZAC Day is always an important day in the New Lynn Sea Scouts’ calendar. This year it was the call to Stand at Dawn for Fletcher and Marshal, while Stella got creative with wreath making.