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Critical need for playing fields drives park changes

EMMA WHITTAKER
Last updated 05:00 11/04/2014
Fowlds park neighbours
Emma Whittaker

COMMUNITY APPROACH: Sue McMillan, left, Brian Carter, Helen Coyte, Steve Coyte and John McMillanntsTnte say more work needs to be done on plans to develop the Fowlds Park to reduce the impact on neighbours.

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Not everyone is on the same team when it comes to upgrades of the city's sports fields.

Plans to install an artificial turf at Fowlds Park don't sit well with neighbours. They fear some users will be shut out and existing problems with noise, traffic and anti-social behaviour will get worse as more people are drawn to use the facility.

Residents say their concerns need to be dealt with before they'll get behind the plan.

They've dealt with sports players staying after games to drink alcohol and leaving bottles behind, people coming to the park at all hours to drink alcohol and play music, fires in the playground, boy racers in the car park and even a suicide.

"Not everyone has the same issues, but everyone is concerned that the issues we have around noise and anti-social behaviour will be amplified," Helen Coyte says.

"If you call 111 on a Friday or Saturday night when it's happening, police have bigger fish to fry than clearing out drunks in a park," Steven Coyte says.

"I think residents genuinely support the use and enjoyment of sports being played in this park as it has for many years," resident Sue Berman says.

"The concern comes from a proposal to radically shift the nature of the sporting facility and fencing off of an area that is currently enjoyed as open access by a variety of recreational park users, dog walkers and fitness training and clubs."

Fowlds Park is one of eight reserves in the Albert-Eden area identified for upgrades over the next eight years in the Auckland Council's $85 million Sport Field Capacity Development programme.

The area has one of the largest shortfalls in sports field capacity in Auckland.

The local board has endorsed a concept plan for the park which includes building an artificial turf on the number two field that will be fenced off.

A four-metre high retaining wall will need to be built on a lower field to support the turf and there will be additional flood lighting.

Work will begin in November, provided resource consent is granted.

Albert-Eden Local Board chairman Peter Haynes says the development is desperately needed and will benefit the wider community.

It's also got the support of the Auckland Softball Association and Mt Albert Rugby League Club which use the park.

Ponsonby Sergeant Geoff Medland says police aren't aware of problems in the park but residents are encouraged to keep reporting matters.

Albert-Eden is facing some difficult challenges in terms of sports field development, Haynes says.

Many of the region's parks have had to be ruled out because they are small and have houses built close to their boundaries.

"The board is acutely aware of the impacts on nearby residents, but also of the critical need for playing fields for young people in our area.

"The local sports clubs are crying out for sports fields that our young people can play on as the ones they use now are very often unusable."

He says the board was under the impression that anti-social behaviour was no longer an issue at the park after measures were put in place three years ago.

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A community liaison group has been set up and the board is assessing a number of options to try and appease neighbours.

- Auckland City Harbour News

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