Flyover view may dismiss Basin tests

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 12:12 27/03/2014

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Basin Reserve Inquiry

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New evidence which has emerged about the Basin Reserve flyover could spell the death of test cricket at the internationally renowned venue.

One of the flyover's architects has revealed the proposed 14 metre-high stretch of highway, 20m north of the Basin, may not be completely hidden from batsmen's view.

The Basin Reserve Trust and Wellington City Council both support the $90 million project, but only if the NZ Transport Agency builds a pavilion at the Basin's northern end to shield players and spectators from views of moving traffic.

Resource consent for both structures is being considered by an independent board of inquiry. If the board decides the agency has not done enough to address the negative effects of the flyover - such as its harm to the cricket ground - it has the power to decline consent.

The board heard on day two of the 17-week hearing that failure to block the flyover from view inside the Basin could jeopardise the ground's test status.

Yesterday the board heard that, even with a pavilion built to the maximum length of 65m, shielding the flyover from view might not be possible.

Tim Jones, from opposition group Save the Basin, showed the board an image of what a batsman would see from the southern end with the pavilion in place. A portion of the highway was still visible over the ground's embankment.

Megan Wraight, the project's head urban designer, confirmed the image was accurate. Pohutukawa trees on the embankment would eventually fill in the gap, but it could be between five and 10 years before they had grown tall enough, she said.

In yet-to-be-presented evidence, the transport agency's landscape expert, Gavin Lister, says cricketers would see only "glimpses through the trees" of flyover traffic.

It was possible to completely hide the vehicles by putting a screen on the flyover itself. But the structure would still be visible and would appear even bigger.

The agency's ophthalmology expert, Gordon Sanderson, said a batsman's brain would be able to screen out moving traffic from his peripheral vision if he was concentrating on the ball. "I consider that moving traffic on the [flyover] is unlikely to cause any greater risk of visual distraction above those already present during a game of cricket," he said.

But former Black Cap Martin Snedden, who will give evidence later in the hearing, said in a submission the agency's experts had failed to grasp what a batsman might find distracting. "The batsman's line of sight extends far deeper and wider than most onlookers would imagine. It is not just a line directly behind the direction the ball is coming from."

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The sudden appearance of fast- moving vehicles against a stationary background such as the sky would be much more pronounced and distracting than crowd movements, he said.

Cricket historian Don Neely, a former Wellington captain whose name adorns the Basin scoreboard, outlined his concern that cricketers might demand to play elsewhere if vehicles proved too distracting. "Nothing would be sadder for Wellington than to see this important historical and cultural symbol become a faded monument to the past."

The Basin Reserve has been a cricket venue since 1868 and an international venue since 1875. It has been the site of some of the country's most memorable cricketing moments, including Brendon McCullum's triple century last month.

- The Dominion Post

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