Bud­get win­ners

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - JANINE RANKIN

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.

DAVID UNWIN/FAIR­FAX NZ.

Grounds­man Andy May tends the wicket at Fitzher­bert Park, which is to get a city coun­cil-backed up­grade.

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