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Foodie show aftermath a nightmare for sports clubs

JESS LEE
Last updated 05:00 20/12/2013
Nicholas Albrecht
Jess Lee
NOT IMPRESSED: Grafton United Cricket Club chairman Nicholas Albrecht doesn’t want Taste of Auckland to return to Victoria Park after damage closed off parts of the park.

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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 under- sown.

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 organisers looked for an alternative location immediately.

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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 much-loved 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.

- Auckland City Harbour News

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