Sport Manawatu helping Palmerston North clubs with amalgamation

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As in many towns and cities throughout New Zealand, the bowling clubs in Palmerston North have been contemplating various amalgamation options.

With a population of nearly 90,000, the city is served by 5 bowling clubs located within the urban area : Palmerston North, Northern, Hokowhitu, Terrace End and Takaro.  There’s more in the rural Manawatu area.

They are typical of many bowling clubs … established in the days when lawn bowls was the go-to retirement pastime, and when private vehicular travel about the city wasn’t nearly as easy, inexpensive and prevalent as it is today.

Fast forward to 2020, and many bowling clubs are threatened with the same fate as neighbourhood post offices and banks … there no longer needs to be one on every corner.

That doesn’t stop club members enjoying their sense of ‘ownership’ of these historically-sited amenities.  And although our minds can cry out for the need to rationalise these clubs, our hearts can be a little more dilatory.

We love our clubs.  Our own clubs.  It can be okay to amalgamate, as long as the other club is “amalgamating’ with us!

The clubs in Palmerston North have been grappling with the heart-mind battle for a number of years.

But rather than being left up to the clubs themselves to figure it out, or for the bowls centre to try to mediate a solution, the local regional sports trust, Sport Manawatu, has come to their aid … and has become involved in facilitating and assisting with a rationalisation strategy.

Sport Manawatu General Manager Brad Cassidy

“That doesn’t mean that the decisions have suddenly become easy to work through,” says Sport Manawatu General Manager Brad Cassidy. “But it does mean that we can come in as an independent voice, and try to facilitate something in the interests of all clubs.”

“It also means that we can try to synchronise their needs with council and the public’s vision for recreation and sport in Palmerston North City – rather than everyone going it on their own.”

It’s already working.

As a preliminary step, the Terrace End Bowling Club is combining with the Northern Bowling Club in September - on the Northern Bowling Club site.

“The Terrace End Bowling Club will relinquish their site, and the lease will revert back to the council,” says Brad.  “The two clubs will for the moment retain their separate identities, but work together to produce a club development proposal to be submitted for consideration in the council’s long-term plan.  That may include seeking funding for a full feasibility study, funding for an artificial green at the Northern site, and funding to remove the redundant buildings at Terrace End.”

“Stage 2 may then look at merging the two clubs into a newly-named entity, with new management, banks accounts, etc.  Takaro may also decide that it wants to become part of the new entity, or like Palmerston North and Hokowhitu continue their own way.”

“We can’t force anything, and don’t want to force anything,” says Brad.  “But obviously the more clubs that come to the party, the more likely council is to view the new amalgam as a regional facility worth investing in.”

Although the idea of a regional sports trust like Sport Manawatu facilitating these strategic bowls amalgamations is new, the idea of bringing council and bowling clubs together to create a superior amenity is not new.  Naenae Bowling Club in the Hutt Valley is a prime example of a fabulous development that occurred as a result of cooperation between council and the former (old) Naenae and Park Avenue Bowling Clubs.

That’s not to say that Palmerston North can expect the same.

But when people start working together, anything can happen.  Brad knows that.  He has a Royal New Zealand Air Force background.

He’s now swapped military cooperation with local body cooperation.  “Sport Manawatu serves four councils,” he says, “Not only Palmerston North, but Manawatu, Horowhenua and Tararua.  We’re also working closely with Sport Whanganui who cover the Whanganui, Rangitikei and Ruapehu councils.”

“The steering group the bowling clubs formed to work through this amalgamation strategy has been doing a great job, and hopefully they will enjoy the rewards of their cooperation.”

-Rob Davis