By Bob Vine
The Hutt Bowling Club like many of its kind is at a crossroads and accordingly, in conjunction with neighbouring Clubs, is undertaking a serious strategic review of what the future might hold and change required to achieve a high level of sustainability.
It is a well-known fact the playing membership numbers of bowling clubs within New Zealand and indeed worldwide has been steadily declining over recent years. Despite initiatives by Bowls NZ and individual clubs, in the main there has been a failure to arrest this decline.
Between 1999 and 2016 the number of playing members of clubs in NZ decreased by 34%. By comparison the combined playing member numbers of the three clubs in the Lower Hutt Valley has decreased by 56% over the same period. (Numbers based on information extracted from Bowls Wellington Information Handbooks including the now merged Petone and Woburn clubs).
Our Club owns its site in Myrtle Street immediately behind the Council Administration Building and new Convention Centre. Other Bowling Clubs in the Lower Hutt Valley are sited on Council owned land with long term leases.
Essentially the location of the Club property makes it an integral part of the Riddiford Gardens. Any future development will have to take this important feature into account.
Another imperative will be to recognise that growth within the sport will only be achieved by providing new formats of the game that will attract members who on the whole will not wish to commit themselves to a highly competitive programme.
To advance this ideal, and to adopt formats that will appeal to casual bowlers, and Greens use by business and professional organisations, it will be necessary to provide an indoor/outdoor facility that will be available for Bowls 12 months of the year, 7 days a week and for up to 8 - 12 hours of the day. Anything less will not be sustainable.
Sustainability will also be dependent on revenue streams derived from public use of the pavilion facilities. Presently the club rooms are hired to a number of service organisations and used regularly by members for Indoor Bowls in the Winter, Housie, Cards, Mahjong etc. This could be expanded by conversion to a more multi-use layout and the inclusion of a Cafe available to both members and the public.
In essence we are seeking to establish ourselves as a Community Centre with Bowls continuing as the core function.