Artificial turf plan alarms residents

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 08:16 07/12/2012
Michael Park School community
Jason Oxenham

ORGANIC PRINCIPLES: The Michael Park School community is concerned about the health risks of the council’s proposal to lay an artificial turf at Michaels Ave Reserve. From left, parents and children Suzanne Mason, Madz Mason, Kathryn Firth, Jasper Firth and principal Karen Affleck with Benjamin Affleck-Buxton.

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A football field at Michaels Ave Reserve in Ellerslie has been dug up and residents want to know what it will be replaced with.

The Michael Park School community is concerned that Auckland Council is considering laying artificial turf that would undermine organic practices in place at the reserve since 1998.

Most artificial turfs use recycled tyres and require cleaning with chemical products and herbicides to keep weeds down.

The council intends to find a solution that accommodates the school's principles while also increasing the potential use of the field, Orakei Local Board chairwoman Desley Simpson says.

Artificial turf allows for four times the amount of playing time a grass field offers.

The board is completely committed to maintaining the current ban on herbicide use in the park, she says.

"The board will reaffirm its support for the 1998 ban at the upcoming board meeting. Parks officers will investigate alternative turf options and designs which can be safely and effectively maintained with organic cleaning products."

Ms Simpson says a meeting on December 4 with stakeholders was "very productive and achieved some positive outcomes for all parties".

Michael Park School principal Karen Affleck agrees.

"I was impressed how responsive the board was to making sure sound processes are carried out. This is despite concerns I have over the way the matter was handled prior to the meeting."

Ms Affleck believes she's found a healthier alternative to the use of tyre infill.

She has contacted a number of football associations in Australia and the United States and found two companies that provide artificial turfs with organic infills.

"I'm hopeful the council will agree to an environmentally friendly option with an organic infill which will not require sanitising or compromise the existing spray ban.

"That would be a win for soccer and a much healthier outcome for the school and the community," she says.

Michael Park School parent Suzanne Mason says she was concerned when she heard an artificial turf was an option and that spraying might be necessary to keep weeds down.

"The kindy has an organic vegetable garden. Directly across from the grounds the field could potentially be sprayed with chemicals.

"Sanitising agents are typically used to control moss, algae, mould, fungus and bacteria. Under usual circumstances the sprays are not organic. But organic sprays can be quite toxic as well. Just because it's organic doesn't mean it's good for the children."

Parent Kathryn Firth says the effects are far-reaching.

"I'm also concerned for the wider community and every player and spectator who will be using the field."

Ellerslie AFC president Mark Weipers says: "We're excited about the artificial surface. It will give us much more capacity for playing time.

"I'm not worried what the surface is made of as long as it can be used to play football on. Having said that we've got to work together to achieve an appropriate solution which keeps everyone happy."

Ms Simpson says: "The council is working 24/7 to investigate turf solutions that adhere to the principles of the school."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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