No home matches for Harbour juniors

Harbour Hawks junior rugby player Archie McDonald contemplates the end of home games at Moller...
Harbour Hawks junior rugby player Archie McDonald contemplates the end of home games at Moller Park, in Ravensbourne, yesterday. The Ravensdown fertiliser plant is pictured in the background. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
The Harbour Hawks juniors are getting used to life on the road.

The club's six junior rugby teams are facing a winter dominated by away games, after learning they would no longer be hosting home games at Moller Park in Ravensbourne.

The ground is on land owned by the nearby Ravensdown fertiliser company, and Harbour chairman Lance Spence told the Otago Daily Times the company was worried about health and safety.

Large trucks needed to negotiate a narrow road running around the edge of the ground to reach the Ravensdown plant, and heavy vehicles did not mix well with young children.

"Ravensdown is more concerned about the young kids running across the driveway, and [parents] parking all over the place, as they do, and not enough room for trucks to get round.

"It was becoming a bit of an issue," Mr Spence said.

The Dunedin City Council has also informed the club it would no longer spend public money maintaining the privately owned site, given its declining community use, a DCC spokeswoman said.

Mr Spence said, as a result, the club's junior rugby home games would no longer be played at the ground.

The change still left Harbour with Watson Park, in Port Chalmers, but it did not have enough space to accommodate all the club's junior teams each Saturday, Mr Spence said.

Moller Park would continue to be used as a training base for senior teams, and a new health and safety plan was being discussed with Ravensdown, he said.

The club was also still in talks with the council about alternative arrangements for junior players, but in the meantime they and their parents faced more time travelling to away games.

Hamish McDonald, an assistant coach for Harbour's year 4 junior team worried that could become a barrier to participation.

His team played an away game at Waikouaiti last weekend, but was off to Mosgiel this weekend.

"When your kid's playing sport ... a home game is helpful.

"It's not ideal for people to have to travel more often than they have to."

He also questioned the need for the change at Moller Park, saying he could not remember a large truck passing through the area on Saturday mornings in his "five or six" years as a coach.

The ODT has been told Moller Park has been earmarked for development by Ravensdown, as had the site north of Moller Park, which the company owned and which had recently been cleared.

A Ravensdown spokesman, contacted yesterday, said discussions with the Harbour club and DCC staff were ongoing, but claimed the company had not told the club to stop using the ground this season.

Asked to explain, he said: "You'd have to ask them [Harbour]."

He stressed the company's focus was on safety, rather than any development plans, but "we do have to keep our options open as we seek to `future proof' the Ravensbourne site".

"We value our relationships with Ravensbourne community organisations. If we make any plans for future building developments, we would be discussing these developments with the interested parties."

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