New Zealand’s equestrian community will take another big step forwards with the official opening of the National Equestrian Centre’s new international-standard indoor arena on Friday (November 23).

The $3.5 million Equestrian Sports New Zealand High Performance Centre of Excellence in Taupo will be opened by the Minister of Sport, the Honourable Grant Robertson before a large gathering of dignitaries and special guests.

For NEC convenor Wallie Niederer it will be a very special day, marking one of the biggest projects undertaken by the sport in New Zealand. It was mooted in 2009 when ESNZ disciplines put together a wish list of how the centre, which had opened in 1975, should develop.

“The last thing on the list was the indoor (arena),” says Mr Niederer. “We ticked off the other bits and pieces over the years. Now we have an international standard venue for both training and competition.”

The task of raising the necessary money was immense. “In the beginning there were a lot of naysayers, but we have managed to turn nearly all of them around.”

The project was driven by Mr Niederer along with Derek Booth, Mark King and the late Dave Grant, and supported by many businesses, volunteers, generous donors and equestrian lovers.

The venue already plays host to the National Three Day Event Championships, along with the Christmas Classic which is considered one of the biggest showjumping shows in the Southern Hemisphere.

The footprint of the new building, which was started in April 2016, covers 65mx75m and includes a big indoor arena, seating for up to 300, a conference room, a mezzanine floor that affords views of inside and outside arenas, a cafe, commercial kitchen, offices and toilets.

“It is just great to see this now finished,” said Mr Niederer, “especially now that we have all the landscaping in.”

Taupō district mayor David Trewavas praised the new venue. “This is a fantastic facility and a world class venue that the Taupo District and New Zealand can be proud of,” he said. “It is also another welcome addition of a place where we can roll out the red carpet for all visitors and encourage them to come back any time to enjoy what we have to offer.

“The Taupo District is well known for its outstanding hospitality, and our ability to host others for events and welcome them warmly are things we are very proud of.”

ESNZ high performance director Sarah Dalziell-Clout said the NEC showed great foresight by Mr Niederer and his committee to develop an asset not only for high performance programmes across all disciplines, but also for the general community.

“The central location of the NEC mean it will be increasingly used by our performance and high performance programmes,” she said. “Already the eventing performance programmes have significantly benefitted from the additional quality training which is enhanced by having our performance development coach Jock Paget living so close by.”

Mrs Dalziell-Clout said it was critical for the nation to have a quality year-round training facility that also offered the ability to train and compete during the winter and at night – as is common all over the world. “The international surface in the new indoor not only protects the longevity of our horses, but better prepares them for global competition.”

She is looking forward to working alongside the NEC Committee to continue to develop the centre further.

The centre also boasts an eventing cross country course across the grades, outdoor grass and sand arenas which are used for both dressage and showjumping, yards and a bridle path, among other facilities.

By Diana Dobson