A proposal to replace the mixed grass turf inside the Forsyth
Barr Stadium with a full artificial turf - at an estimated
cost of $1 million - will be considered by a Dunedin City
Council subcommittee examining changes to the year-old venue.
However, the idea has prompted a warning from Dunedin Venues
Management Ltd chief executive David Davies, who said it
could make it harder to attract All Blacks tests and some
other top-level sports fixtures.
Cr Lee Vandervis, a member of the council subcommittee, told
the Otago Daily Times he would be pushing for the change
"very strongly" when the subcommittee met. It was an idea he
had raised previously.
The subcommittee would reconvene later this year to consider
results of a review of the stadium's operation, as well as
other suggestions to improve the venue's use.
The stadium uses the Desso GrassMaster system, in which
natural turf is reinforced with millions of plastic fibres.
It was funded by community grants totalling $655,000.
The turf is designed to be used three times as often as
normal grass. It is used at hundreds of stadiums worldwide
and has helped Dunedin's stadium earn rave reviews from
However, Cr Vandervis claimed it was also placing "severe
constraints" on the venue, and a full artificial turf would
cut maintenance costs, while allowing more community use of
"We could use it every day and not have to worry about the
Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull, the chairman of the subcommittee,
said there would "clearly" be merit in the proposal, if a
surface could be found that suited all sporting codes, cost
less to maintain and gave more flexibility.
However, the cost of any change, and whether it would be
suitable for international rugby, as well as other groups,
needed to be considered.
"I don't think it's a silly question at all, but I think you
then have to follow on and say what would it mean?"
The proposal would be considered by the subcommittee, along
with the views of other stakeholders and the public, before
recommendations were presented to the council, Mr Cull said.
That work was expected to begin "in the next month or so".
"The subcommittee would have to satisfy itself that there
were more benefits than downside."
Mr Davies said the stadium already catered for "significant"
community use, and although it was "undoubtedly true" an
artificial turf could increase that, other costs also needed
to be considered.
Those included installation costs and ongoing maintenance
costs, which would need to be the subject of a council
"I've looked after plastic pitches previously, and they
aren't without maintenance costs.
"There is a requirement for them to be kept properly, to make
sure that the surface is kept up to scratch."
Some events could also be discouraged from using the venue,
"I don't think anybody in the NRL, for example, plays on a
plastic pitch. I'm not sure any of the All Blacks' major
games are played on plastic pitches."
NZRU staff were not willing to comment yesterday, but pointed
to International Rugby Board regulation 22, which allowed
artificial surfaces to be used, provided steps were followed
to ensure required standards were met.
That included testing the playing surface before use, regular
maintenance and retesting to ensure standards were
The IRB's Law 1 also stated playing surfaces should be grass,
but could also be clay, sand, snow "or artificial grass", and
neither regulations nor laws prevented international rugby on
New Zealand already has eight artificial surfaces used for
rugby, but only up to premier club level.
Otago Rugby Football Union general manager Richard Kinley
said he did not know much about artificial turf technology,
but believed the idea "would make good sense" if grass
surfaces could be replicated.
Cr Vandervis raised the idea earlier this year, during debate
over a dedicated artificial turf for football at Logan Park -
part-funded by Fifa - and a separate multipurpose turf for
The council had opted not to fund either, although potential
sites for both had been identified.
Football South general manager Bill Chisholm, who backed the
Logan Park plans, said having one inside the stadium would
"certainly help" the sport, and could be completed for about
However, he questioned whether it would suit rugby, and said
Fifa would not help fund the initiative unless it was
dedicated to football.
"Fifa are not going to put their money into something that's
for general use. We would have to control it."