City's sports fields to be reviewed

Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall inspects a muddy section of a rugby field...
Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall inspects a muddy section of a rugby field in Brighton Domain last winter. Photo: Shawn McAvinue
A major review of Dunedin's sports fields, set to begin later this year, could shift goalposts across the city.

However, it is not expected to deliver a quick fix for the Harbour Rugby Club, which continues to eye the possibility of being squeezed off one of its two home grounds and having nowhere else to go.

Dunedin City Council parks and recreation group manager Robert West said yesterday a review of sports fields across the city was expected to begin in a matter of months.

It had been on the council's to-do list for a while, but would begin once work on a tracks audit and playground review were completed, he said.

The review promised to be "a big piece of work" that aimed to help the council better understand the existing provision of sports fields across the city, their use and maintenance demands.

The information would be used to drive investment in fields in a way that best fit the requirements of sports codes, clubs and other users, he said.

"It's quite a complicated piece of work, as you can imagine, because we've got to involve a lot of stakeholders when we start those discussions."

The council - together with Football South and its fundraising efforts - had just completed a major upgrade of Logan Park, which was facing higher demands for use.

However, it has also been criticised over the state of some grounds, particular after wet winter weather, and the state of cricket pitches in summer.

The review was not prompted by any specific concerns about inadequate numbers of fields or their current maintenance, "but it does feed into that kind of stuff", Mr West said.

"When we receive a concern about drainage on certain pitches or the types of surfaces we've got, it's hard for us to make really robust decisions without knowing what we want to invest in and how we want to invest."

It was too soon to say if the review could lead to a major reshuffle of the types of facilities provided, or where individual clubs or codes were based, he said.

Sports clubs had, in the past, told the council the issue facing the city was not the number of grounds, but where they were located and their quality, he said.

The review also came hot on the heels of the major public spat between the Harbour Rugby Club and its giant industrial neighbour, Ravensdown.

The company owns the Moller Park ground Harbour relies on, and club chairman Lance Spence has accused the company of trying to force it out to pave the way for a development plan.

Mr Spence has also criticised the council over its intention, since reversed, to cease maintaining the ground, citing its private ownership and underuse.

Mr West said yesterday the pending review would not solve either issue, as the council was "sitting on the side" watching the dispute unfold.

However, the council had offered the club alternative venues, Mr West said, and it would continue to maintain Moller Park as long as Harbour continued to use it, he said.

He declined to elaborate on what other venues had been offered to Harbour, should it no longer be able to use Moller Park, saying that would have "knock-on" effects for other stakeholders.


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