An uneven playing field
Some sports clubs in Auckland are still charged for ground fees, while others aren’t. Julian Raethel reports.
WEEKEND sport is at the heart of most communities.
But there’s a divisive issue facing sports clubs that’s been slipping under the radar for four years.
Central sports grounds in the Auckland isthmus are the only ones in the supercity still paying for the privilege to use senior sports grounds.
Junior teams (17 years and under) are exempt.
Under the old structure, all clubs with grounds under Auckland City Council’s control were charged for Saturday senior sports and some training sessions.
The bone of contention comes in the fine print.
When the super-city amalgamated in 2010, Orakei Local Board chair Desley Simpson says the six affected local boards were unaware their grounds had been singled out for fees.
The waters have been muddied further by an apparent lack of documentation.
Local and Sports Parks Central manager Jane Aickin says the matter was discussed in 2011 across a number of meetings and workshops.
‘‘The feedback from boards was that there was no appetite for [or ability to] drop charges given the income was part of the local board budget,’’ Aickin says.
But Simpson says all this is ambiguous and the Parks, Sports and Recreation Committee is just trying to cover its tracks.
‘‘They say that [we agreed to it] but they have no proof of it. . .we didn’t know what rules and regulations other former councils had.’’
Most sports organisations, except football, absorb the cost and spread the charge across all the clubs in their competition. When Auckland Football Federation receives the bill it charges the clubs separately, leaving them out of pocket by thousands of dollars.
Eastern Suburbs AFC chairman Chris Ruffell says it’s unfair for the council to put them in this position. The grounds at Madills Farm cost about $7000 a year.
‘‘Seven thousand dollars isn’t the end of the world, we’re a big club. But it’s the principle.
‘‘We are already paying the highest rates in Auckland. . .it’s ridiculous,’’ Ruffell says.
Auckland Rugby League forks out about $23,000 a year for their senior competitions.
All clubs share the cost because everyone is using each other’s grounds at some point during the season, ARL competitions manager Pat Carthy says.
Adrian Dale, club cricket and game development man- ager at Auckland Cricket, says they don’t divvy up the fees either.
‘‘We thought it was probably going to be one of those things that would get sorted. We’re still waiting, I suppose,’’ he says.
Orakei, Albert-Eden and Waitemata local boards have been lobbying the council to remedy what they call an injustice.
‘‘Sport and recreation should be as accessible as possible for all Aucklanders, no matter where they live,’’ Waitemata Local Board chairman Shale Chambers says.
Auckland Council says is considering the matter.
Whether sports clubs pay to use their grounds is a point of contention for Auckland Council.
Eastern Suburbs AFC chairman Chris Ruffell wants to know why his club is charged fees.
Waitemata Local Board chairman Shale Chambers says sport should be accessible to all Aucklanders.