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Event's future in doubt

JESS LEE
Last updated 05:00 07/03/2014
Taste of Auckland

TRY THIS: Luke Whyle offers plantain to Sophie Mills, centre, and Amber Vercoe at Taste of Auckland 2013.

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Sports clubs and event organisers are still waiting to see if Taste of Auckland will be welcomed back to Victoria Park this year.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development says the four-day event benefited Auckland's economy to the tune of $550,000 and attracted more than 24,000 people.

But there were calls for it to be shifted elsewhere (Auckland City Harbour News, December 20) after damage from the last event caused parts of the site to be fenced off in the weeks before Christmas.

The Waitemata Local Board has taken complaints from sports clubs affected by the partial closure onboard and will present a new events protocol for the park on Tuesday to help council officers decide what can be held there in the future.

"It will help to inform any applications for use of the park but it is never definitive and will still be guided by circumstances," board chairman Shale Chambers says.

Taste of Auckland director Robert Eliott says not having the inner-city park as a venue would almost certainly spell the end of the festival.

"No suitable venue has been offered as an alternative. It takes a year to organise the festival and we're already four months in to that so we're having to plan the event as if it's going ahead at Victoria Park."

Mr Eliott presented the Waitemata Local Board with what he says is a "win-win" solution at the board's public meeting last month.

He says an automated irrigation system would improve the quality of the grounds for sports clubs and help reduce the impact of hosting events. Taste of Auckland would contribute $50,000 over five years towards the cost of the improvement, while Total Touch would front up an additional $30,000 over three to five years subject to a similar commitment from other groups.

But Mr Chambers says it would be years before an irrigation system could be installed even if it was approved.

"We are not pushing for Taste not to happen but the issue is whether Victoria Park is the place for it. We have suggested shifting it to another location like Western Springs."

Grafton United Cricket chairman Nicholas Albrecht says the club is waiting with interest to hear the board's decision.

"The club feels strongly that the park should be maintained primarily for sports and recreational use."

Victoria Park touch rugby organiser Graeme Wallace says his club was unable to play touch for six weeks in the middle of the season following last year's festival.

"We need strong fields that can take a knock - it's just a dust box without proper irrigation at the moment. Taste of Auckland is a great event but if it has to stay we don't think it's reasonable for it to take us out of action for more than two weeks."

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