Future of facilities is food for thought

Editorial, Normal

The National, Monday July 13th, 2015

 POSITIVE comments from Pacific Games athletes and team officials about the facilities at the Games Village and other venues have prompted the pertinent question of whether the Games Village should be handed over to the University of Papua New Guinea after the sporting extravaganza has ended.

We think otherwise and agree with Sports and Pacific Games Minister Justin Tkatchenko that the K240 million facility should remain a state asset, which will be available for international sporting and other major events.

Tkatchenko likes to refer to the Games Village, which is located within the university’s Waigani campus, as the largest hotel in the South Pacific with 1600 rooms and the most modern facilities.

He was under fire recently over his intention to keep the Games Village under the care of the PNG Sports Foundation. 

Many people criticised him in the mainstream and social media for reneging on an agreement between the Government and the university on the future ownership of the facility. It is understood the initial deal was for the Games Village to be built at the Waigani campus on the condition that the facility is handed over to the university to cater for its increasing student population.

While the agreement must be respected and honoured, the Government should have the flexibility to amend it in the national interest.

As it is, the Games Village is an  expensive, modern accommodation facility that will be quite costly to maintain.

The university administration certainly does not have bucket-loads of money to maintain the facility. In fact, it relies on annual government funding for its operations and general upkeep.

Therefore, it is illogical for the Government to hand over the Games Village to the university and expect it to maintain the high standard of accommodation and mess facilities that is expected.

It makes more sense for the Government to amend the agreement and keep the Games Village under the care of the PNG Sports Foundation. In turn the Government can compensate the university with some new or upgraded student residential and messing facilities.

After all, taxpayers in this country wouldn’t want to see an expensive facility, which was funded by their hard-earned money, being run-down in the very near future due to a lack of maintenance. Another factor that weighs heavily against the university is the high rate of wear and tear by its students. 

While it is the country’s premier university, the past and current conditions of some their student accommodation facilities leave a lot to be desired.

Hopefully, the university administration will have rea­lised by now that taking over the Games Village is not the simple solution to their accommodation problem. 

What they need is affordable student accommodation and not an overly expensive facility like the Games Village, which will definitely cost them an arm and a leg to sustain and maintain.

It is understood a submission is before the National Executive Council to decide on the future management and operations of all major sporting venues and facilities.

It is proposed that major sporting facilities, such as the Sir John Guise Stadium, Sir Hubert Murray Stadium and Taurama Aquatic Centre will come under the care of the PNG Sports Foundation, which will be provided with management expertise and training as well as funding by the Australian Government.

It is proposed the Games Village be managed by a private entity, preferably a credible hotelier or company involved in the hospitality business.

As Tkatchenko said, it is a “massive task” to upkeep a modern accommodation facility like the Games Village.

He estimates that it will cost K20 million a year to maintain these sporting venues and facilities, which is a fraction of the K1.4 billion spent by the Government on the construction and upgrading works.

It is understood the Government will soon be meeting with the university to discuss the Games Village issue and how best to cater for their future accommodation needs. We hope an amicable solution will be reached.