I move, That the Palmerston North Showgrounds Act Repeal Bill be now read a first time. It is a privilege always, as the members who have been speaking over the past 5 or 6 hours—or it felt a bit like that—on the Bishop Suter Art Gallery Governance Restructuring Bill have reflected, to come to the House and raise issues about one’s own local area. I notice that even people who are not of the local area and who have never been to the Suter Gallery—people who have wafted through Nelson on only the odd occasion—felt that it was very important to rise and lend their support to it.
Thank you, Madam Assistant Speaker, for these precious moments. Before the dinner break, the masses of people who were in the House were listening somewhat stoically to a very long debate about the Suter Gallery in Nelson. I was commenting in the few seconds I had before the dinner break that one of the privileges of being a member of Parliament is to be able to present a bill on a local issue in the House. It is a chance to talk about something that matters to one’s local constituents and, on top of that, to say a few things about the area one comes from. I noted that a large number of people on the National Party side of the House seem to have a very close affinity with Nelson. Some people who had not even been there felt they should get up and talk for a full 10 minutes on how deeply they felt about the Suter Gallery. Mr Power and I, who feel equally powerfully about our own regions, will probably take at least that amount of time to work our way through this bill.
I will take a second to put this bill in context. If one has been to Palmerston North, in the Manawatū, one will know that a large arena complex sits in the middle of one of the finest cities ever to be put together in this nation. If one was to watch a Hurricanes game—if the Hurricanes would ever deign to go to Palmerston North to play a game, though; I think they have been there twice—
The first Super 12 game was held there. I can remember sitting in the stands—Mr Power was probably somewhere in the stands, too—and looking across the verdant green field that is Arena 1, and across the wonderful, tree-lined city called Palmerston North, towards the absolutely gorgeous sun-kissed and wind-caressed hills called the Tararuas. It was a vision. If members of the House are wondering how to spend a weekend, I suggest to them that they could do worse than to come and watch a game at Arena 1 in Palmerston North.
Attached to that arena are a series of other arenas that make up, I believe—and no doubt Ms Dyson, being a proud Cantabrian, will tell me if I am wrong—the largest under-cover sports facility in the country.
Mr Power, who is an independent person—he comes from the Rangitīkei, not the Manawatū—has told us that I am exactly right. The complex is the largest indoor, under-cover facility in New Zealand, and possibly even further afield. If one wants to hold a conference—and I know that the Greens and the Māori Party hold very large conferences—that is the place to do so. If one wishes to come to Palmerston North, then those grounds can hold any number of delegates.
We have in front of us the Palmerston North Showgrounds Act Repeal Bill 2008. It is very modest, simple legislation. It does three things. The “Bill provides for the transfer of the management and control of the land that comprises the Palmerston North Showgrounds from the Palmerston North Showgrounds Board of Control to the Palmerston North City Council, …”, which, historically, is the body that has, largely, nominated the people on the showgrounds board. Secondly, the bill allows for the dissolution of the Palmerston North Showgrounds Board of Control—because the control has gone to the city council—and, thirdly, it repeals the Palmerston North Showgrounds Act 1974.
The 1974 Act brought into being a partnership between the Palmerston North City Council and the Manawatu and West Coast Agricultural and Pastoral Association, known fondly around our area as the A and P association. The bill allows for the showgrounds to be managed by the Palmerston North City Council. The council, taking the place of the board of control that I talked of earlier, will use the grounds as a recreation reserve and manage them properly for the benefit of the city. The 1974 Act resulted from a deed of agreement between the parties under which the city council was to develop and improve the showgrounds and make them available to the A and P association for its show. [Interruption] Mr Hawkins says he wants to know a little more about that. As a keen inner-city person, he probably does not go very often to shows like A and P shows. If he did have a chance to go, he would find that a kaleidoscope—a smorgasbord, really—of enjoyments are put on for the benefit of people in the region. The A and P show consists of a large number of agricultural shows. There is a lot of woodchopping, and livestock is judged on site. As a young child, a thrill I often enjoyed was to go on all the rides, eat candy floss, and do those kinds of things.
I still love it. I still go there each year for my waffle cone.
What has changed is that the A and P show has, on the whole, become more run down over the years. In a sense, it is in the wrong place. Palmerston North is the wrong place for it in this day and age. Palmerston North used to be a major place for agricultural shows; actually, Feilding is now a much better place. That is in Mr Simon Power’s neck of the woods. There is a very large and suitable area called Manfeild Park, where large shows can be held. The A and P show will shift across to that other fine area, Feilding, which has won the award for being the most well-kept and prettiest town I do not know how many times—
Feilding has won the competition 13 times. It is a great place for the show to go, and that will leave the showgrounds to be used appropriately under the control of the city council.
The A and P association has made it very clear that it no longer wants to manage the showgrounds. It has spent many years thinking this through. It wants to transfer its rights, assets, and liabilities to the city council, so that the council can look after the showgrounds. That is all that is happening, and that is why the parties involved are comfortable with this bill. The bill does nothing other than to suit the wishes of the A and P association, which does not want to manage the showgrounds any more and wants someone else to look after them. Under the 1974 Act, the A and P association has to look after the showgrounds, but it does not want to; it wants to move its show somewhere else.
The rest of the bill deals with the dissolving of the board and makes sure that that is dealt with legally. It protects the interests of the parties, it clarifies any taxation consequences, and, as I said before, it repeals the Palmerston North Showgrounds Act.
I thank the House very much for expediting the passage this bill. I thank the people from Cooper Rapley, who are the lawyers for the Palmerston North City Council. This is another piece of good work from them. They have enabled the bill to move smoothly through to this stage. I look forward to a short, but hopefully supportive, debate on this issue.
I close by saying that people can attend fantastic shows in wonderful amenities not only in Palmerston North, in the middle of the Manawatū, but also, as I pass over to my friend and colleague Mr Simon Power, in the wider Rangitīkei area as well—in particular, in Feilding.
Just before you take your seat, could you indicate which select committee this bill will go to.
The House will be the poorer for the departure of the Hon Steve Maharey and his ability to put the case for Palmerston North on local bills and other legislation. No matter who wins the Palmerston North seat at the upcoming election, the city will be losing an advocate who, no matter how technical the issue, has delivered passionate speeches on matters such as the Palmerston North Showgrounds Act Repeal Bill.
To be frank, there is not a lot to add; Mr Maharey has done a pretty good job of canvassing all the issues. But being a curious sort of character, I phoned the gentleman who has been involved with the Palmerston North Showgrounds Board of Control to make sure he was happy with the legislation being promoted by the council—he was. As Steve Maharey mentioned, Palmerston North’s loss will be Feilding’s gain, as the A and P show moves to Manfeild Park, which is a large, expansive facility in the Feilding township. Manfeild Park also hosts the Central Districts Field Days and has had a massive revamp in recent years. Equestrian facilities and agribusinesses are now located on the property, and it is going ahead with some vigour.
As Mr Maharey said, the bill provides for the transfer of the management and control of the land that comprises the showgrounds. I used to frequent the Palmerston North Showgrounds for a waffle and candy floss, and I not only played rugby there but also, in later years, after a severe knee injury on the mountain in 1991, refereed a fair bit of rugby there. So I know it not only from the air but also from ground level. I have a unique perspective to share—having had my face in the grass as well as having refereed under-21 rugby—on this particular park.
I tell Minister Dyson that it showed me I was incredibly unfit. It is very, very difficult to keep up with under-21-year-olds who are playing very fast-paced rugby, and to try to make it look as though one’s rulings and decisions are legitimate. For example, one can get into all sorts of bother trying to judge a forward pass when one is 30 metres behind the play. But that is just the nature of the game. I do not have a lot to add; Steve Maharey has done a terrific job of covering it all.
National will support this bill’s passage through the House. Members of the Local Government and Environment Committee have been advised that the bill is coming. I presume, because the member did not seek a truncated select committee period, that we will have 6 months for the hearing of submissions. I am sure it will not take as long as that, but no doubt there will be one or two submissions, I imagine, from the Palmerston North City Council. National stands ready to see this bill progressed.
Kia ora tātou, kia ora tātou te Whare. I listened to the Hon Steve Maharey talking about other speakers this evening, and their association with particular places, and I am pleased to say that I will tell the truth. Up until a week ago I can say that my association is limited to scoring a try from about 20 metres out in the middle of the No. 2 paddock and playing on the No. 1 paddock when I was a young fella, and from memory I think I set up about two tries as well, not that we will dwell too much on that. My second association is with the Matatini festival, which Steve Maharey will know took place at the beginning of the year in February, and that was national kapahaka time. All the main groups of the country headed to the arena in Palmerston North to participate in the Matatini kapahaka festival. So I think it is a pretty good association: rugby, kapahaka—what else can one add to that?
We know that at the kapahaka festival about 35,000 people were drawn to the arena, I suppose overwhelmed with pride about their indigenous culture and arts. When it came down to doing a little bit of research on the bill, I came across another association with this place, which others—not that we have had many speakers—may or may not know about, and it is quite important.
What I would like to explain to the House is that Arena Manawatū, for those who did not know, was also the marshalling spot for the Māori Battalion before it went overseas. There are a number of photos around that show that that is where, basically, people would go to gather our people; and, indeed, any visitor to the showgrounds today will pass by the Māori Battalion Memorial Hall directly opposite the park. So that is an important association.
This bill, in its most simple form, is about transferring the management and control of the showgrounds land from the current board to the Palmerston North City Council, as alluded to by Mr Maharey. In essence it is pretty straightforward. We know from our members throughout Manawatū that the Palmerston North City Council and the Manawatū District Council have been working more closely together, sharing services and promoting joint events, and that is all pretty good. But as an independent Māori voice in this Parliament we are always committed to finding out a little bit more about what the influences and impacts are of any legislation on mana whenua.
What we have found out is that the Palmerston North City Council has undertaken public consultation on the changes, and during that process it appears that there were no submissions that were received in opposition. So that is a pretty good start.
The Māori liaison officer of the council, Mr Todd Taiepa, told us that there has been public consultation process on this whole issue, given that it is such a major strategic asset. We went further and talked with representatives of both Rangitāne and Ngāti Kauwhata about this bill. Rangitāne is happy for the bill to proceed, and also accepted the wisdom of maintaining sports, recreation, and the like in one centre, namely the Arena Manawatū, while focusing rural and agricultural activities such as the A and P shows and others at another site in Feilding at Manfeild Park as Mr Maharey also talked about.
This, of course, is where it becomes a little bit more complicated, because, as Ngāti Kauwhata would tell us, the Crown record on Manfeild Park is not exactly exemplary. We in the Māori Party came into this House in late 2005, and throughout 2006 put the case for Ngāti Kauwhata to be included on the representation for mana whenua on the Manfeild Park Trust board—not a major ask, one would think, yet it did not actually happen. The thing is that we know Ngāti Kauwhata is continuing with its request for representation. We know that it has put to the Waitangi Tribunal the question about membership on the Manfeild Park Trust electoral college. We know also that it is pursuing its claims to lands at Manfeild Park through the Treaty settlement process, including Wai 1461, the Rangitīkei-Manawatū Block, with Ngāti Raukawa and other iwi.
So all we would ask is that, in this new bill, the Palmerston North Showgrounds Act Repeal Bill, more care is taken towards ensuring that all relevant iwi are, indeed, satisfied with the outcomes. The key thing for us is that specific efforts are made to engage with iwi and that the terms of that engagement are determined together with iwi themselves. It is not just about talking with tangata whenua about cultural matters and matters of design, it is about the environmental concerns related to this land. It is all about the best use of our economic assets for the well-being of all people who access this resort. It is all about kaitiakitanga and a sense of responsibility and ownership that tangata whenua hold for any land entrusted through the generations to their care. So we will support this bill at first reading in a spirit of optimism, which we trust will enable full consultation to occur.
On behalf of New Zealand First I am very pleased to support the Palmerston North Showgrounds Act Repeal Bill. This is a very straightforward bill that provides for the transfer of the management and control of the land that comprises the Palmerston North Showgrounds, from the Palmerston North Showgrounds Board of Control to the Palmerston North City Council.
I have listened to other members in this House talking about their association with the Palmerston North Showgrounds and I must add mine. I have been there on a number of occasions. I have sat and watched rugby games in the park and shivered in the cold, wintry winds. But I must admit, too, that there have been some sunny days that were very pleasant. I have also watched the stock cars there, so it is a venue that has a large number of events. We are very pleased to see that this very popular part of the city has at last received the recognition it deserves. We in New Zealand First are very happy to support this particular bill.
It is a privilege to stand and support this bill, and to listen to the Hon Steve Maharey wax lyrical about Palmerston North. My favourite Palmerston North story is about the Americans who went into the information bureau and said: “Say, does it get hot over here? It’s just all those fans up on the hill.” A great story; I do not know whether it is an urban myth.
The Palmerston North Showgrounds is a place that is not really all that close to my heart, unlike, for instance, the Suter Art Gallery in Nelson where my father is a member and exhibits on a regular basis—maybe I should have made myself available to speak there. My son did have a flat about 100 yards from the showgrounds, and when I was a police cadet I played a number of student teachers at a certain rugby tournament at the showgrounds. Mr Mallard may well have been there at the time; I do not recall. I did play in the same team as Mr Mallard at Karamea in the South Island, in a game of netball, I think, in about 1976 or 1977—he was wearing a red nightie, I think—during a certain teachers’ trip to the West Coast with some old friends. I think Paul Swain might have been there, actually. Those were the good old days.
I drank a jug with a kaftan on, but I never played netball in the 1990s.
Righto—back to Palmerston North. Well, I think Palmerston North is a fine place to go. I was there on Saturday visiting Barry and Collette in their new first home. It is a great little place to buy houses, raise kids, belong to the army, and do the psychiatric work that Collette does. I would encourage John Cleese to go back to Palmerston North, and I dare him to make similar disparaging comments about the fair city that some of us hold dear to our hearts. If you live in a little place like Hāwera—jewel that it is—Palmerston North has a lot to behold. There is a lot to do in the odd visit to the big smoke, such as the odd Hurricanes game.
It is good to see this legislation come before the House, and for me it is good practice at speaking, because in the next months I hope to put forward legislation that will vest land from the Pātea Sports and Agricultural Society—the 10 acres it bought in Kakaramea in 1853—into the Kakaramea hall committee. It is amazing what one learns in this House and what one gets to speak about. It is always a privilege.
It is worthwhile making a contribution on this bill that involves Palmerston North people, Manawatū people, Rangitīkei people, Horowhenua people, and even Wanganui people, because many of us will have very much an emotive tie with all of our regional shows that go on under the name of agricultural, pastoral, and industrial, or just A and P. In fact, when I was a lot younger I was able to show some of my animals at this particular showground in Palmerston North. I did not actually do very well but I have a strong emotive tie to this area in Palmerston North because as a youngster I used to go to watch the stock cars there, and then as a student for 4 years I played a lot of rugby there. I do not think I actually scored a try on the main ground but I played for the varsity “A” rugby team a lot out the back in the mud, and I played a little bit of representative rugby on the main ground.
The important point I want to make in my contribution this evening is that I feel Palmerston North will be the loser with this Palmerston North Showgrounds Act Repeal Bill. The reason I say that is that I am always mindful of the connection between urban and rural people. I know the show will continue at Feilding and I know that is fundamentally a very good thing, but in the past it has been very easy and accessible for city dwellers to go along when the A and P show was on and understand exactly what goes on at the farm-gate level. They could walk around and see the pet animals and, indeed, in the past we have had very good bull weeks when prize bulls have been shown in that particular area.
The National Party supports this bill allowing this organisation to move to Manfeild in Feilding. It makes sense in a way because on a Friday it is very much the rural hub for that area, with the very well-known Feilding sale yards. I think it is good that it is going there, but I urge a little caution and say that we need to be mindful of the fact that we have at times a disconnection between urban and rural New Zealand. The ground at Palmerston North will always be there, and the stadium will be there. The stock cars will evolve, and all the sports facilities will go on there, because this bill enables the ground to be passed over to, and be run by, the Palmerston North City Council. I know all of those activities will continue, but fundamentally the rural aspect that has been the hub of this organisation will move to Feilding. National supports this bill, but I think we will have to do some ongoing work in this House to ensure that we have strong connections between our rural folk and our city dwellers.
I rise to take a brief call on the Palmerston North Showgrounds Act Repeal Bill, particularly because I have been a neighbour of this fine province of Manawatū, coming from Hawke’s Bay. I have lots of recollections as a boy of games of rugby between Hawke’s Bay and the Manawatū—the green and whites—and of jumping in dad’s old Holden and driving from Hawke’s Bay through the gorge and over to the showgrounds for some mighty games of rugby. I remember that in the old days they used to hang magpies from the letterboxes as we came through on the other side of the gorge and went through Aokautere and some of the outlying towns as we came in. So there are many memories there.
My family has a close connection with the ground. Obviously my father Kel played many games of provincial rugby there, and there is now a tournament held between the Manawatū and Hawke’s Bay teams for a memorial trophy named for my father, who passed away in 1992. More than that, my wife’s family—Jeanette and Trevor Jurgens—are from that area and they have an association with the stock cars there, with a son-in-law who is involved with those. I myself was at Massey University, and I wanted to touch on that because, like Nathan and a number of members of this House, I played a lot of rugby out on the back ground there. I also have some pretty bad memories of some of the under-cover areas that Mr Maharey talked about—with the Massey University toga parties and things of that ilk—
We will not go into too much detail on that. The National Party supports the bill, but I want to make a point about the A and P society and how difficult it is for them. Even in Hawke’s Bay the society is having to rejuvenate itself as an organisation. It has had a fall off in numbers and has had to reinvent itself over the last few years. We are starting to see a rise in the numbers of people coming to the A and P shows, but the organisation is having to look outside the square to promote itself and provide something that is of attraction to the wider public. So it will be interesting to see whether it can do that in Feilding and replicate what is happening with the Fieldays there.
Essentially this is a non-controversial bill; it is of the flavour of Manawatū and Hawke’s Bay rugby whereby everyone is supportive of the wider game, and we will certainly support the bill tonight.