Ground fees could scuttle touch rugby competition

A popular summer rugby competition in Cromwell could be kicked into touch.

Cromwell Rugby Club chairman Jason Clark said the touch rugby season, organised by the club and involving up to 400 players, was in jeopardy because of the ``excessive ground rent fees'' charged by the Central Otago District Council.

Touch was becoming the ``summer sport'' for many in Cromwell, but the club was losing money every year by running the competition, because Anderson Park field hire charges were too steep, he said.

The Cromwell Community Board heard a plea from the club yesterday for free hire of the grounds or a grant to cover the venue hire costs.

Mr Clark said player numbers varied but the trend was an increase most years. Junior and senior players took part and all registration, coaching, organisation and refereeing was done by volunteers.

``In short, touch rugby in Cromwell is a significant recreational, sporting, family and health-affirming activity involving hundreds and hundreds of both adults and children.''

Cromwell resident Michael Laws, speaking on behalf of the rugby club at yesterday's meeting, said sport was a vital element of the community and it was a ``foreign'' concept to charge people for using grounds when they paid for the amenity through their rates.

If the rugby club pulled the plug on touch rugby, there would be very little summer sport in Cromwell, which would be ``a major catastrophe'', he said.

Council parks and recreation manager Mat Begg said the club wanted to use four fields for the coming season. The council did not charge anything for the use of fields for junior sport. Other sports paid a rental per senior player per season for the use of the grounds, as set in the council's annual fees and charges.

Marking the fields throughout the 20-week season would cost about $4800. It had to be done every three or four weeks as the grass was mown regularly, he said.

Board member Nigel McKinlay said if the rent was set the same as last year, every senior player would be paying $1.25 per game for grounds rental, so he struggled to see how that was a barrier to the viability of the competition. Other sports paid hire charges for facilities.

Board chairman Neil Gillespie said the club's concerns would be noted at estimates time when fees and charges for sportsgrounds were set.

The board voted to charge the club $2088 for grounds rental this touch rugby season - about $500 less than last season. The discount recognised 42% of teams in the senior competition were made up of junior players.

Following the meeting, Mr Clark said the future of the touch competition was still ``up in the air''. A decision would be made at the club's committee meeting within the next fortnight.



Koha - appreciation for the use of the fields. Plenty of people are paying for these facilities and not using them at all. Its part of rating but also part of community. And those that use them could show appreciation back to the community and as said at $1.25 what other sporting activity can be done so cheaply.



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