Woodhill Sands Trust needs your $$$

The World Cup series final is one of the premium events held at Woodhill Sands and is popular with spectators. (Image:  Libby Law Photography)

Woodhill Sands is one of the best equestrian venues in the country, but its future is uncertain and it needs riders’ help. Here is an outline of the situation at present and the support that is quite urgently needed:

The Trust

The Woodhill Sands Trust was set up with the objective of purchasing the Woodhill Sands Equestrian Centre, and keeping it running as a premium equestrian event centre.

The Trust has recently issued an update on its progress in its campaign to secure WSEC for riders and equestrian sports:

Key points

• Fundraising target not yet met, still seeking support from riding community.

• Deadline of 28 February

• Auckland Council support dependent on riding community raising the balance of funds.

The details

The Woodhill Sands Trust has a conditional Sale & Purchase Agreement for the 10.59ha property known as Woodhill Sands Equestrian Centre. Current owners, Chris and Shelley Ross, have sub-divided the property and will retain 2 hectares, comprising the house, stables and related buildings plus adjoining paddocks. At this time, all conditions but for finance have been satisfied.

The date for satisfying the finance conditions is 28 February.

It is proposed that the purchase will be financed by a combination of bank lending and funds raised from within the sport. We have not been successful in our endeavours to obtain funding for the purchase from grants organisations, for a range of reasons.

The bank lending will be supported by Auckland Council guarantee. Without Council guarantee, the Trust’s borrowing capacity is much lower. Council support is therefore critical to this purchase proceeding. The Councillors have approved in principle a guarantee of up to $2.5m. Auckland Council officers have imposed some requirements on the Trust as a condition of signing the guarantee. These are outlined in more detail below.

Raising funds

In order to fulfil the finance conditions, the Trust has to raise sufficient funds to meet the balance of the purchase price payable. So far we have raised slightly over $300,000 so have further work to do. Realistically we need a further $200,000 to complete the purchase and cover purchase-related costs. The Trust is optimistic that this target will be met but sport support is needed.

We have received fantastic support from Waitemata Area Groups (Jumping, Dressage and Show Hunter), from Auckland-Manukau Jumping, Waitemata Riding Club and NZPCA. These groups have collectively contributed close to $80,000.

New Zealand’s top show jumpers love competing in the main arena – including Katie Laurie seen here on Dunstan Casebrooke Lomond (Image: Libby Law Photography)

There is a small group of individuals who have very generously supported our campaign with significant personal donations. There was also a GiveALittle campaign to which a further 164 generous individuals contributed $14,768. This campaign has now closed.

Donations can be made direct to the Trust’s bank account: ASB 12-3019-0013702-00. Please add your name as a reference and let the Trust know how you would like your support to be recognised.

The Trust is also discussing sponsorship proposals with a number of businesses and welcomes further proposals. We are very appreciative of the support offered to us.

Council Officers will not execute the Guarantee until such time as the Trust demonstrates it can fund the balance of the purchase price and can also fund debt repayments from WSEC operations. As part of Council’s due diligence, we have been required to provide historic and forward-looking financial information such as statements of financial performance, usage statistics, forecasts and so on. We have provided this information. We have also been required to obtain a binding tax ruling from IRD as to the Trust’s tax exempt status. There is at minimum a 3/4 month timeline involved in obtaining a tax ruling, however we are close to completion and anticipate to receive the final (and favourable) ruling shortly.

The biggest hurdle

At this time, the biggest hurdle is securing the balance of the purchase price, either through cash gifts or loans on non-commercial terms from people within the sport. We are so close to securing the funds needed that to stumble now would be dispiriting for us all.

There have been a number of suggestions made to us about how we might engage with riders to raise the balance. Some of these have been great ideas but rely on the Trust already owning Woodhill Sands, so the timing is not right. Access to covered yards has been a popular suggestion, as there are currently only 20 of these at WSEC and a demand for more. However, while this seems a great idea, we cannot legitimately use funds received for building extra covered yards to fund the purchase, because we will not then be able to deliver on the promise made to provide extra yards.

Yarding improvements, parking and increased access to the facility for user groups are all fundraising options that rely on the Trust first completing the purchase.

There’s no alternative

There is a misconception, held by a number of people within the sport, that there are alternative venues (such as Kumeu Showgrounds) that could collectively substitute for the approximately 160 days of annual competition at Woodhill Sands. Yes, there are other venues… but could they provide 160 days of event activity? Very unlikely!!

If you would like to see Woodhill Sands retained as a premium equestrian venue, you need to donate now! (Image: Libby Law Photography)

Furthermore, the sport does not have priority access to these other venues and is competing with other users for dates. The infrastructure in terms of truck parking, yards and arenas is often limited, and the ability of ground surfaces to withstand use to the scale and number of events held at Woodhill Sands is untested. The sport would have to fund the development of this infrastructure and suffer disruption until such time as this is done. We would also remain vulnerable to the demands of other users and the decisions of the landowners.

The Trust has been established to operate WSEC to promote and support equestrian sports in this part of the country. If at a future time WSEC is sold, the sale proceeds must be applied by the Trust for these purposes (promote and support equestrian sports), so any grants or gifts received from philanthropic individuals/families/groups would not be repaid but would be reinvested in the sport. Any loans, however, would be repaid from sales proceeds.

If you would like further information, you can email woodhillsandstrust@gmail.com

More details are available on the website, accessible via this link.

Well done to all those riders who donated their prize money from recent events at Woodhill Sands to the Woodhills Sands Trust. Among them are Samantha Felton, Kate Hewlett, Ana Rattray, Georgia Bouzaid, Jessica and Amy Collinson, Mackenzie Parker and Grace Stewart… just to mention a few. That was a generous and greatly appreciated gesture!