Capital affirms commitment to Relay For Life

6 May 2016

The annual Relay For Life event in Wellington for the Cancer Society will stay in its long-time home of Frank Kitts Park, following a meeting between the Mayor, Council staff and representatives from the Cancer Society yesterday.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown led a meeting between Council staff and a delegation led by Relay For Life patron Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban and the Wellington Cancer Society CEO Michael Smith to discuss issues about the popular and successful fundraising event being held at Frank Kitts Park.

As part of the 2001 Wellington Waterfront Framework, reconfirmed in 2011, one of the remaining significant projects is the revitalisation of Frank Kitts Park.

Current plans would double the Children’s Playground, make a large events-friendly lawn and plantings and build a Chinese Garden. The harbour-side wall, built as a viewing area for the long-gone motor race, will be removed says Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

“Our much-loved Frank Kitts Park turns its back to Wellington’s magnificent harbour,” says the Mayor, “so the redevelopment will connect better with the harbour.

“Having held their popular Relay For Life in Frank Kitts Park for 14 years, the Cancer Society were understandably concerned about the implications of the redevelopment on the timing and location of the Relay.

“Our meeting has helped allay those concerns and I’m delighted with the collaborative and constructive spirit around the table.”

The key to making progress was ensuring a good fit between the construction timetable and the timing of the event, normally held during March in the Capital, says Hon Laban, a cancer survivor.

“The massive participation in the Relay demonstrates that everyone will be affected by cancer at some point in their lives,” says Hon Laban. “Many young people, families, schools, businesses and community groups have participated in the Relay and we all consider Frank Kitts Park to be our home.

“It was great to hear that the proposed construction timetable can have enough flexibility to allow the Relay to stay in Frank Kitts Park next year and every year and I thank the Mayor and Council staff for their support and understanding. We live in a city that cares.”

At the meeting an understanding was reached that Council would keep the relay organisers informed of progress and redevelopment timetables, to allow them the flexibility to bring the Relay forward by a few weeks in 2017 and, if necessary, delay it by a few weeks in 2018 to allow for the construction timetable.

Wellington Cancer Society CEO Michael Smith says the event is the second-largest fundraiser for the Society after Daffodil Day, raising between $350,000 to $400,000 annually for their efforts. This year’s event, held 9 April, attracted 3600 participants in 87 teams.

“What those numbers don’t tell is the sheer amount of passion and commitment by everyone involved in the Relay for Life,” says Mr Smith.

“Frank Kitts Park has been our home for the past 14 years and we need to be mindful that many participants have a very deep and personal connection with the park as cancer survivors and in support and memoriam for their friends and family members.

“It’s a very visible site, it’s in the heart of the city and it’s a great place to run a Relay. I’m looking forward to working closely with Council staff to ensure that Frank Kitts Park remains our home for the Relay and I’m excited about the current proposed plans.”

A resource consent application for the redevelopment of Frank Kitts Park was lodged this week. Should consent be granted, more detailed design work will commence in September 2016 to February 2017 followed by construction.

More information: A media statement on the waterfront revitalisation can be found here: http://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/news/2015/05/waterfront-revamp-10-year-plan-approval