Harold Driver visits University Oval, one of his favourites
among more than 100 Dunedin sports fields he has looked
after during the past 40 years. Photo by Linda Robertson.
After 40 years looking after Dunedin's sports fields,
Harold Driver is calling time on a what has a been a very
Mr Driver (67), the Dunedin City Council's sports field and
facilities officer, will drive home to Fairfield and
retirement after work tomorrow, worry-free about the state of
pitches for the weekend's matches.
While he has had a few job title changes over the years, the
job has always roughly been the same - to ensure the
council's 103 sports fields are in top shape for the clubs
and teams that use them.
He is also responsible for the maintenance of structures such
as pontoons and jetties along the harbour, and bridges and
boardwalks on walkways and tracks in the city's amenity
When Mr Driver started as a groundsman with the council,
groundsmen were still using modified agricultural equipment
to keep the fields. Several lived on site.
These days, he spends most of his time liaising with the
governing bodies of winter and summer sports that use the
fields, and the contractors who maintained them.
Looking after sports fields had its challenges.
Dealing with sports clubs and governing bodies had required,
at times, a good use of his diplomatic skills, while being
the man who made the cancellation call on Saturday games did
not always win him popularity contests.
''When you're in a job that's weather-dependent, you have
people who love you one Saturday and hate you the next. It
was always walking a fine line.''
But the preservation and preparation of the field for the
next game was always the No 1 priority.
Sports becoming professional had given his job a new focus.
At the end of a season in the 1970s, rugby fields would look
like ''a cow paddock'', Mr Driver recalled.
''Of course today, the clubs won't tolerate that. At the end
of a rugby season when I first started here, there was
virtually no grass left, and you spent all the summer getting
it ready for the winter.''
Now, sports codes were using fields almost year-round.
''Expectations from professional bodies are a lot higher.
Everything has to be like they see on TV .. . In fact, now
all users see television programmes with beautiful sports
fields and they expect that here, too.''
Technology and machinery had leapt forward as well.
Sand carpet sports fields were now commonplace, as was sand
top-dressing. Soil testing had increased, the grass had
changed, as had irrigation systems, and artificial turf was
''Times have changed and moved on.''
He was particularly proud of the University Oval, and
watching cricket tests and internationals there had been some
of the highlights of his career, as was the Rugby World Cup
in 2011, when he was in charge of organising training
facilities for the various teams.
Mr Driver was also proud to be leaving in place a strong
maintenance schedule for fields and structures.
And while he might be leaving sports grounds behind, he was
not leaving grounds entirely.
He had lined up some work as a groundsman at the Otago-Taieri
A&P Showgrounds, but still expected a few calls from the
council, mining his intimate knowledge of sports fields.