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New Sport and recreation leaders ready to tackle challenges

Three sport organisations at the forefront of increasing participation, health and wellbeing and supporting our top athletes to reach the pinnacle of their sport have new leaders at the helm. Sport Hawke’s Bay has promoted Ryan Hambleton to chief executive while the Regional Sports Park Trust (RSPT) has Glenn Lucas as its new chief executive and Hawke’s Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust (HBCFCT) has recruited experienced event manager Brendan Bourke.

The three men face big challenges, especially when it comes to funding, programme delivery and ongoing investment into facilities. RST and HBCFCT, both based at Mitre 10 Sports Park in Hastings also need to confront and come to a conclusion on a much touted merger that’s been stalled for some time. The Profit catches up with Ryan, Glenn and Brendan as they look to make an impression in their new roles.

Experienced event manager focusses on long-term financial sustainability

Brendan Bourke, originally from Taranaki has a background in the planning and delivery of Major Events both in NZ and around the world such as the Melbourne Commonwealth Games 2006 and Rugby World Cup’s in France 2007 and 2011 in NZ.

He was tournament director for the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in 2018 and worked for leading event management company Lagardere Unlimited delivering the ITU Triathlon World Series, Queenstown International Marathon, Hawke’s Bay International Marathon and the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015. He also spent nearly three years working for Luna Rossa Prada Pirelli on the 36th America’s Cup in Auckland, before his last major event role, as Head of Operations for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023.

Brendan’s role with HBCFCT is to oversee the people and the programmes managed at the state-of-the-art facility at Mitre10 Sports Park that includes EIT Institute of Sport & Health, Hawke’s Bay Regional Aquatic Centre, powered by Pak’nSave, the Avery Hostel and in community outreach as far as Wairoa. HBCFCT has grown to become a significant player in the wellbeing, youth development and sport participation at grassroots and high performance levels.

Brendan says his key early focus is on ensuring the trust is financially viable, signalling both cost cuts and identifying new revenue streams. “I’m going to be looking into all avenues where revenue can be generated within our confines, and also taking a good look at where money is being spent, to ensure we are getting bang for our buck. “As a charitable trust, it’s critical for us to be spending money wisely, and at the same time ensuring we are delivering on our vision of creating a healthy Hawke’s Bay.

“Budget management plays a key part in a charitable trust like ours and I’m keen to do what we can here to operate as efficiently as possible, without taking away any of the good that we currently offer. We’re just greasing the wheels a little to make things run a little smoother.

HBCFCT will continue to deliver its Learn to Swim and Water Safety programmes throughout the year with local schools along with looking at growing gym membership by increasing fitness classes as well as trying to get greater use out of all facilities. “There is one or two other ideas in the pipeline but a little more work needs to be done before we discuss those openly.”

A big event for HBCFCT is the hosting of the back to back NZ Swimming Champs from 9-13 April, followed by the NZ Age Group Swimming Champs from 15-19 April which will see New Zealand’s top swimmers aiming to qualify for the Paris Olympics in July. HBCFCT is heavily reliant on sponsorship and user fee revenue and facilities such as the Pak’nSave Hastings Hawke’s Bay Regional Aquatic Centre are expensive to operate as is providing programmes for free or at a small fee. Brendan says having a strong relationship with the local business community is vital and is ongoing. As well as Pak’nSave Hastings, the trust is well supported by Apollo Projects, Royston Health Trust and Hurford Parker.

“As a charitable trust, sourcing funding and sponsorship is always going to keep us on our toes, so we’re putting in some good groundwork in early 2024 to ensure all our programmes can be delivered to the highest possible level. He says the more users of facilities and programmes, the greater appeal for businesses and other funding organisations to be a partner.

“We have over 700 aquatic members and in 2023 we delivered over 15,500 learn to swim lessons across the year. “Royston Health Trust are our major sponsor who, without their generosity we would not have been able to deliver almost 17,000 Learn to Swim lessons in 2023, which directly assisted over 2,100 local school children and Hurford Parker sponsor our Water Safety Programme, which delivered 1,068 lessons. TUMU Group is the lead sponsor for our Te Tūranga Athlete Development Programme and the Education Outside the Classroom Programme is supported by Baker Tilly Staples Rodway.

This year HBCFCT will launch Project Hope, initially in Central Hawke’s Bay, which will allow youth restricted by geography or socio-economic status to be exposed to similar opportunities as those based in Napier and Hastings.


“We are looking to diversify what we are currently delivering, so we do have some opportunities for local businesses to put their name alongside one of these, which is really going to benefit our youth.

Sport HB head sets sights on new strategy

Ryan Hambleton has hit the ground running as the new chief executive of the region’s lead sport trust, determined to lift its role as a key influencer when it comes to getting more people active.

He’s no new kid on the block, having started seven years ago with the trust in a commercial manager role and then appointed general manager in 2020 – developing strong relationships with local councils, businesses and sport code and club network. Despite great weather and sport infrastructure, Hawke’s Bay isn’t the most active region. 44% of Hawke’s Bay students do not participate in physical activity, 10.9% higher than nationally.

“It has been well documented the declining participation rates for rangatahi and while this will continue to be a challenge, I also have hope that with so many dedicated, passionate and knowledgeable people who often volunteer their time, young people have more opportunities than ever.


Sport New Zealand, the main funder of Sport HB is set to release a new active strategy, and SHB is also reviewing its strategy, providing Ryan with an opportunity to make his mark.

“We are in an exciting phase as we continue to work alongside Sport NZ and key contract partners to start to plan what the future looks like.

“I want to be advocating for this work with our partners which includes territorial authorities, health providers, sport organisations and post settlement groups and to ensure Sport HB is regarded as an influential partner across the region. “We have some great new and existing initiatives that will support the region in more ways than one.

The Sport NZ funded initiatives such as ‘Active As’ and ‘Health Active Learning’ are two in which Sport HB supports kura to get their young people more active and living a healthier lifestyle.

“We are working directly with 55 primary schools through Healthy Active Learning and an additional five secondary schools through Active As which works to support sport and physical activity and complement education and health outcomes. “This is an exciting development and one that will continue to have a lasting impact on tamariki and rangatahi across the Bay.”

Ryan has the pedigree to succeed. Born and bred in Hawke’s Bay, he was the commercial and marketing manager at Sport Wellington before returning to the region in 2016 for a similar role at SHB before moving into a general manager role in 2020, managing partnerships with Sport NZ, councils and community funders.

“I’ve always wanted to make a positive impact in a leadership role in Hawke’s Bay. Being local, I understand what makes Hawke’s Bay tick and look forward to continuing to support the sector going forward. “I’m very keen to take the organisation to a new level to ensure Sport HB is regarded as an influential partner with councils, health organisations and the play active recreation and sport sector.

The last three years have been far from normal. First COVID 19 saw limited participation in sport and events, then the cyclone damaged sport infrastructure as well as ease of access with some communities cut off from the wider region and today funding is tightening. “There are many challenges we face as a region, especially since the Cyclone.

“Play, active recreation, health and sport are fundamental to the overall wellbeing of our communities, so it is important organisation we continue to advocate for and promote the benefits of being physically active.

“We need to make sure that all people of all ages, ethnicities and communities in Hawke’s Bay have opportunities to participate in play, active recreation and sport. We acknowledge the financial pressure our partners will face in the The Regional Sports Park prior to the new aquatic centre years to come and the impact this will have on our sector.

Sport HB doesn’t get significant funding from local businesses but is eyeing new opportunities. It’s biggest connection is with the annual Hawke’s Bay Sport Awards, supported by lead sponsor Forsyth Barr. The event and a smaller scale awards in Central Hawke’s Bay provide a major platform for SHB and the sport sector to celebrate sport and recreation.

“These events attract close to a combined 1000 people and provide business and the active recreation and sport sector a chance to mix and mingle and celebrate success from across the region. “I have had experience in previous roles in partnering with local businesses to match business regional sports trust can offer and moving forward I am looking at ways in which we can expand our programmes to further support the business sector.

Challenges ahead for new GM

Glenn Lucas has several big challenges ahead as GM of the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports Park Trust. Mitre 10 Sports park was established in 2007 as a replacement facility to Nelson Park as home for Hastings Athletics Club. Since then it has grown immensely with many sport codes using the expansive park including hockey, netball, canoe polo, rugby league, football, touch rugby, boxing and crossfit.

It’s also the home of Central Districts Cricket and the land is shared with the Hawke’s Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust, which has its three large facilities. Glenn has taken over at a challenging time as some assets start to show their wear and tear. In 2023, both netball and athletics raised concerns about the state of netball courts and the athletics track. Athletics is at risk of losing its status as a premier track, due to it needing to be replaced at a cost in excess of $750,000.

Athletics Hastings had hoped that this work would be underway in early 2024, but fundraising has been challenging. outcomes with what a It’s not lost on Glenn to the enormity of the challenge ahead. “We are in effect the landlord of the park. The role is managing relationships with our sporting partners and tenant management of the asset to deliver to the needs of our sports and events partners and users.

“We work with event promoters to put on all sorts of community and sporting events and management of the more strategic and future-focused aspects of the park.” He says other big priorities for 2024 include improvements to parking, traffic flow and wayfinding, which is cause for constant concerns by all users; establishing good relationships with all partners, funders and stakeholders, and building a sense of welcoming and belonging to the park across broad and diverse Hawke’s Bay community.

“One of the biggest challenges is the constant tension between making sport and recreation affordable and ensuring that our clubs and regional sporting organisations generate sufficient income to continue the amazing work that they do.  “This is a constant tightrope walk for many of our sporting organisations and our role in this is to make our part of the equation affordable and works in partnership will all of our tenants, sports and events partners to identify where cost efficiencies can be accessed.

Glenn is keen to develop a closer relationship with HBCFCT to better tell the story of the overall park and to provide a seamless experience. “The HBCFCT is a critical partner for us. For the general public they have no idea that there are two separate trusts that are responsible for activities on the park, so the more that we can collaborate, tell a joined up story and providing a seamless interface to partners and users the better the service we will provide and the stronger the whole park will be.”

There has been discussions between the two trusts, Sport HB and Hastings District Council to explore a merger for more than two years but any plans seem to have fallen over. The Profit asked both trusts if this was likely to happen, with HBCFCT Trust chair Iain Taylor not wanting to comment while his counterpart Tania Kerr said “No discussions are currently taking place in relation to a merger.  We are continuing to work with HBCFCT on operational matters, for the benefit of tenants, all park users and the Hawke’s Bay community”.

Glenn says he will look to build stronger partnerships and collaboration with all the partners and stakeholders in and around the park.

“We can share expertise, help each other and deliver a better and more tailored product to our community.  “In addition to the organised sports participation that is our bread and butter and will continue to be a large part of what we do – looking to encourage more informal active participation at the park through the way we develop our asset, engage potentials partners to bridge into communities that do not use the facility and tell our story through promotions and media. Glenn is also keen to grow its sponsorship base.

“This is an area that for me beyond the relationships that we have with our sponsors is a real opportunity to get better at.  We work with these sponsors to provide value matched to their outcomes sought – both commercial and social good outcomes.”