Sports people denied grounds

The condition of some Dunedin sports grounds  is a disgrace.

City Care, from Christchurch, has been suspended from its cricket contract with the Dunedin City Council for the next four months because of the conditions of some grounds.

The suspension from preparing pitches around the southern part of the city came into force last month after they were found to be substandard and potentially hazardous to play on.

The council is aware of the issues with the conditions of many other grounds around town and is working with its new contractor to find solution.

But — and this will come as no surprise — the council has declined to say what it is doing and when a solution will be announced.

In the meantime, cricketers are only able to play their summer game on artificial pitches.

It is completely unfathomable no-one decided to do an early check to see whether the pitches were up to standard. The recent spell of fine weather should have seen plenty of young cricketers outside following on from the deeds of the Black Caps against the West Indies. Not in Dunedin.

It is easier to say a solution is being worked on, but not explain exactly what it is, than actually fix the problem.

Dunedin sporting surfaces have been in the spotlight this year in two codes, according to Otago Daily Times reports.

At the start of the winter season, a premier football match between Roslyn-Wakari and Caversham had to be abandoned at Tonga Park due to the lines on the field not matching up with the goalposts. Upon subsequent inspection, it was discovered other grounds had incorrect markings.

As recently as last weekend, after his side lost to Canterbury United 2-0, Southern United coach Paul O’Reilly spoke out about the standard of the pitch at Sunnyvale and also those at other grounds around the city.

Having the coach of the region’s top football team complain about the pitch being an absolute embarrassment and disgrace is an alert to the council. Something is sadly amiss with the care and maintenance of the city’s sports grounds.

The council says financial penalties are in place in the contract if City Care does not reach targets. But, again, the council declines to say whether any penalties have been imposed on the contractor.

Being completely clear then, ratepayers are being prevented from either playing on pitches or are playing on substandard surfaces. Yet they are not told what remedies are being adopted and whether the offending contractor has been financially penalised.

News of the Pirates and Caversham meeting in the clubrooms at Hancock Park has to be seen as positive. Caversham, the football club, and Pirates, the rugby club, have talked about the football club leaving Tonga Park and moving its base to Hancock Park.

There is no decision yet on whether football posts will be put up at Hancock Park but that must be inevitable. Pirates has a strong junior section but no premier team.

The joint use of the free-draining Hancock Park for football and rugby is a sign of sports clubs combining for the best possible reasons.

A way must be found for football to be played on Hancock Park because of the problems experienced with the wet Tonga Park earlier this year. The Otago Rugby Union, which is likely to have the final decision on who plays what on the park, will be wise to look at how situations like this can be resolved. Falling sporting numbers in the city mean better use of existing facilities must be a priority.

Dunedin sports people deserve the best opportunity to play their games. Outdoor activity is in the DNA of New Zealanders.

The sooner the state of the grounds in Dunedin is resolved the better. Meanwhile, it will be incredibly helpful for the council to become more open with information to its ratepayers.

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