Park dam­age off­side

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By JESS LEE

DAM­AGE caused in pub­lic events at Vic­to­ria Park is leav­ing city sports clubs with a bit­ter taste in their mouths.

Parts of the park have been fenced off this month be­cause of dam­age caused dur­ing the Taste of Auck­land event.

Grafton United Cricket Club and Vic­to­ria Park’s touch rugby teams want or­gan­is­ers to look else­where for a place to host the fix­ture in the fu­ture.

Grafton chair­man Ni­cholas Al­brecht says the club strongly op­poses the event us­ing the park as its base for the next five years.

‘‘The coun­cil has done a very good job of try­ing to get this ground up to play but to be blunt it will be the worst ground for play­ing cricket in Auck­land,’’ Mr Al­brecht says.

‘‘It’s an ab­so­lute disgrace. This is meant to be Auck­land’s pre­mier park.’’

Ex­tremely dry weather con­di­tions in the lead-up to the event are to blame for a sub­stan­tial amount of dam­age to the park, Auck­land Coun­cil lo­cal and sports cen­tral man­ager Jane Aitken says.

More than 120 ex­hibitors crammed the park last month to sell their wares to an es­ti­mated 15,000 food­ies.

Some ar­eas needed to be re­placed with turf to speed up their re­cov­ery while oth­ers had to be un­der­sown.

Taste of Auck­land picks up the bill for all dam­age caused by the event.

But Mr Al­brecht says that’s not good enough con­sid­er­ing many of their games have had to be re­lo­cated to other parks.

‘‘The key point is, is Vic­to­ria Park for sports and re­cre­ational use or is it go­ing to be an events cen­tre?’’

Vic­to­ria Park touch rugby or­gan­iser Graeme Wal­lace says the four-day event puts two-thirds of the park out of ac­tion for sev­eral weeks each year.

‘‘We don’t want Auck­land to lose the event. We just don’t think it be­longs in Vic­to­ria Park.’’

Mr Al­brecht says or­gan­is­ers should con­sider re­lo­cat­ing to Shed 10 or Queens Wharf.

But Taste of Auck­land di­rec­tor Robert Eliott says there are no spa­ces big enough or more suited to the event than the in­ner-city park.

‘‘As long as peo­ple want to come to Taste we want to keep run­ning it and this is the per­fect space for it.’’

Mr Eliott says he and other or­gan­is­ers would like the coun­cil to look at ways to up­grade the park to min­imise any risk of fu­ture dam­age.

In March last year the Waitem­ata Lo­cal Board ap­proved the use of the park for the 2012 and 2013 Taste of Auck­land events on the un­der­stand­ing it would not re­ceive fu­ture en­dorse­ment from the board af­ter 2013.

It rec­om­mended or­gan- is­ers looked for an al­ter­na­tive lo­ca­tion im­me­di­ately.

Board chair­man Shale Cham­bers says he doesn’t be­lieve it is ap­pro­pri­ate to ap­prove an event that re­quires the use of the park for more than a cou­ple of days.

‘‘The dam­age to the grounds this year by the Taste event is both dis­ap­point­ing and clearly un­sus­tain­able,’’ he says.

‘‘Vic­to­ria Park is a muchloved and used park by many users and its use for ma­jor events needs to be weighed against th­ese com­pet­ing needs.’’

It is likely any events ap­ply­ing to use the park will now come un­der more scru­tiny fol­low­ing on from the lat­est dam­age, he says.

‘‘Taste of Auck­land has made it a higher hur­dle than be­fore.’’

The board has com­mis­sioned an events pro­to­col for help­ing of­fi­cers to de­ter­mine the com­pet­ing uses of the park.

It will be pre­sented at its first busi­ness meet­ing in the new year.

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