Fitzherbert Park and residents of Forest Hill Rd are the big winners in the Palmerston North City Council’s revised budget for 2017-18.
The Manawatu Cricket Association will receive $155,000 toward its project to return Fitzherbert Park to premier status as early as this summer.
After years of hearing submissions about a dangerous, steep and windy unsealed Aokautere road, the council has agreed to spend $500,000 strengthening and sealing Forest Hill Rd.
Manawatu Cricket development and operations manager Dave Meiring said he was ‘‘hugely thrilled’’ the council had agreed to contribute such a large amount of money in one year.
The association would be applying for grants and sponsorship to raise another $134,000 for the park’s development.
The plan included grass practice facilities and nets, sight screens, an area for scorers, officials and press, an electronic scoreboard, and upgrading of the Bruce Turner Pavilion.
The goal of the improvements was to return Fitzherbert Park to premier status, suitable for fourday first class games, and international women’s matches.
Mayor Grant Smith said Manawatu’s 4000-plus cricketers had had ‘‘a fairly raw deal’’ in the past and it was time to fix that.
Smith also promoted a one-off $500,000 fix for about 2km of Forest Hill Rd in 2017-18.
He said this year was the third time he had heard pleas for improving safety there, including reports of close calls that could have been fatal.
‘‘If somebody dies there, I would never forgive myself. It is a pretty horrible piece of road.’’
Forest Hill Rd resident Blair Taylor said it was ‘‘awesome news’’ that the council had finally listened.
He said the gravel road used by about 45 vehicles a day was steep and poorly maintained, with blind bends and recently, a significant slip undermining the edge at one point.
It was deeply rutted, with steep drop-offs, and in summer, dust reduced visibility and compounded the dangers.
The final check of the budget will be done at a committee of council meeting on June 19, with the full council approving the rates rise, expected to be just under 3 per cent, on June 26.
Groundsman Andy May tends the wicket at Fitzherbert Park, which is to get a city council-backed upgrade.