Mud bath vs pitch perfect: Tale of two sports grounds

Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall inspects a muddy section of a rugby field in Brighton Domain last week. Photo: Shawn McAvinue
Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall inspects a muddy section of a rugby field in Brighton Domain last week. Photo: Shawn McAvinue
A Brighton sports field featuring ‘‘a lake of stagnant water’’ reveals a lack of maintenance by the Dunedin City Council, a rugby club president and community board head say.

But other sports field users in Dunedin say the council has lifted its game.

Saddle Hill Community Board chairman Scott Weatherall, speaking to The Star, said the council needed to increase its budget for maintaining sports fields across the city to avoid muddy playing conditions.

‘‘Our sports fields throughout the city are not holding up to any reasonable amount of rain, and they should be.’’

Water was pooling on rugby fields in Brighton Domain, he said.

Birds were attracted to the water, increasing the damage to the fields, Mr Weatherall said.

Green Island Rugby Football Club president Craig Anderson admires a dry rugby ground at Miller Park in Abbotsford on Saturday. Photo: Shawn McAvinue
Green Island Rugby Football Club president Craig Anderson admires a dry rugby ground at Miller Park in Abbotsford on Saturday. Photo: Shawn McAvinue

Brighton Rugby Club president Darrell McIver said the council had its priorities wrong.

It spent ‘‘a lot of money on the domain for freedom campers’’ when the sports fields were in a mess.

Parents of players in the club’s three juniors teams detested watching their children playing on a field containing ‘‘a lake of stagnant water’’.

‘‘It reeks.’’

However, Green Island Rugby Football Club president Craig Anderson said the council had answered a call from the club to improve the condition of its two fields for senior games at Miller Park.

The fields were among the muddiest in the city last season but the council had completed ‘‘a lot of work’’ this year, including clearing out a ditch, which runs down a side of a field.

Football South chief executive Chris Wright said he felt ‘‘sympathy’’ for the council.

‘‘They are dealing with some massive challenges they don’t necessarily have the ability to control, such as the weather and the use of the grounds.’’

The number of people playing football in Dunedin had nearly doubled, resulting in grounds being used twice as much, he said.

The council had a ‘‘short window between seasons’’ to renovate sports fields.

Rather than increasing maintenance budgets, a better solution was implementing ‘‘clever’’ projects, such as the building of proposed artificial turfs in Logan Park, which would allow clubs to train off grass pitches and give the council more time to renovate sports grounds, Mr Wright said.

‘‘Our clubs want better grounds and better facilities and we 100% agree.

‘‘We just have to work with the council to ensure there’s long­term strategic solutions being implemented.’’

Sport Otago development and capability manager Owen Booth said Sport Otago ‘‘would love to see more money being spent on sports fields’’ but understood the council had to work within budgets.

Long-term solutions, such as building artificial turfs, should be encouraged, he said.

Council parks and cemeteries manager Gareth Jones said the council spent about $400,000 a year maintaining about 215 sports fields at about 70 grounds across the city. The cost for grass cutting, line marking, and other preparation costs including cricket wickets was additional.

The council had plans to improve the drainage on some fields but had not budgeted for it in this financial year, he said.

Mr McIver said stagnant water on Brighton Domain was a health and safety issue.

When asked to comment, Mr Jones replied: "We don’t believe it is a health and safety issue, we monitor grounds regularly.

"Every ground has a saturation point and surface water is going to appear throughout the year, especially when there is a lot of rain.

"There isn’t a simple, cost-effective solution. If there was, council’s team of horticultural experts would have resolved [it] by now."

SHAWN.MCAVINUE@thestar.co.nz

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