Govt has dived into Covid-19 recovery funds to help build aquatic centre that – gosh! – may bring world champs to Hastings

Buzz from the Beehive 

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has been busy in the past 24 hours, joining the PM for the opening of a new aquatic centre, enthusing about data from the latest visitor statistics and announcing a new industry strategy.

The Minister for Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities Priyanca Radhakrishnan was in the business of announcing strategies, too.  She welcomed the Ministry for Ethnic Communities’ release of its first strategy, setting out the actions it will take over the next few years to achieve better wellbeing outcomes for ethnic communities.

In the Education domain, Associate Minister Jan Tinetti was chuffed about the success of the programme for providing “free” period products in schools, while fellow Associate Minister Aupito William Sio announced the recipients of the Tulī Takes Flight scholarships. These were a key part of last year’s Dawn Raids apology.

Stuart Nash was in his home patch – more or less – when the Prime Minister officially opened the Hawke’s Bay Regional Aquatic Centre.

The opening of the centre was hailed in a Beehive press statement which drew attention to the remarkably high aspirations of the good people of the province.

In the statement, both the PM and Nash (presumably to justify the money spent) raised the fascinating prospect of the world swimming championships one day being held in Hastings.

Not before 2024, we imagine, because the world champs have already been programmed that far ahead.

Interestingly, the press statement did not mention Hastings, the city where the centre was opened.  Maybe that’s because Nash, now a list MP, is the MP for Napier.

The PM gushed:

“This is a world class facility which will be able to host national and international events including the world championships. With a 10-lane Olympic pool, training pool, hydrotherapy centre and seating capacity of up to 1,662 people, this is a facility that Hawke’s Bay and New Zealand can be proud of.”

She acknowledged the contribution  of Sir Graeme Avery, “whose passion and vision has been a huge part in its successful development.”

Taxpayers, it transpires, chipped in, too.

The Government invested $32 million into the project through the Infrastructure Reference Group as part of the COVID-19 recovery.

Stuart Nash said the facility was an excellent example of good quality infrastructure investment creating 88 jobs during construction and further employment opportunities now that it is open.

“The improved recreational water facilities will also mean children will be able to take part in learn-to-swim and water safety classes. The health and wellbeing of people wider region, from Wairoa to Waipukurau, will benefit from this asset.”

Like the PM, he is braced for the world champs being held in his province.

“The potential economic spinoffs for the region are enormous with major events, including world championships, able to be held here.”

FINA (Fédération Internationale de Natation), or – in English – the International Swimming Federation – holds the world swimming championships every two years.

The tournament is second only to the Olympics in terms of importance in the world of aquatic sports.  Athletes compete across six different disciplines:  swimming, diving, high diving, open water swimming, artistic swimming, and water polo.

The championships s this year were held in Budapest.

Point of Order was fascinated by an article which asked:  why doesn’t FINA award the world’s most decorated nation with its marquee championship?

The answer:

Simply put, it isn’t necessarily all up to FINA.

The amount of approval needed for a city to come forward with a bid is much more substantial than many would imagine. The first step is getting the city itself on board to spend millions of dollars. That itself isn’t a simple task, as many cities have struggled to secure public support for sporting events of this magnitude.

Running these champs costs eye-watering sums of money, in other words.

But the government – we may assume – will be keen to help Hawke’s Bay bring the event to Hastings.

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