Council attitude stumps MCA

GEORGE HEAGNEY
Last updated 12:00 27/04/2012

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Manawatu can forget about first-class cricket next season and the Manawatu Cricket Association is up in arms about it.

That is the obvious conclusion because Palmerston North City Council's draft 10-year plan hasn't earmarked funds to upgrade the pitches and outfields at Fitzherbert, Manawaroa and Ongley parks.

Manawatu had no first-class games this summer and a number of times club and representative games had to be moved or cancelled.

MCA general manager Neil Hood said they had been working behind the scenes to get resolutions from the council regarding the poor performance of wickets and grounds at club and rep level.

"Despite numerous meetings, promises, and planned courses of action, the issues have remained unsolved," he said.

Twelve of 88 submissions to the council about the draft plan concerned the MCA's ground issues with the council.

"Despite everyone knowing there were several major issues this year, the council initially charged the MCA its full grounds-user charges," Hood said.

"After meeting with high-level council employees to communicate the many issues we had endured over the season for the umpteenth time, we were offered a slight reduction. That was frankly insulting."

Hood felt the council was trying to calm the MCA down without listening or fixing the problems.

In the draft plan he saw several aspects, crucial to fixing the problem, that had been taken out.

"The standard of rep and club wickets produced over the last 2 1/2 years have simply been an embarrassment. And even worse is the terrible drainage around the blocks on Manawaroa and Ongley parks that has prevented any play on a huge number of occasions."

Fixing Fitzherbert Park's irrigation system was a crucial element in the ground regaining its first-class cricket warrant of fitness and any hope of Central Districts matches.

Hood said council staff have admitted the water pressure is not sufficient to run the irrigation system on Fitzherbert Park.

That can also be linked to the poor standard of club pitches over the past two seasons on Ongley and Manawaroa parks.

The council's Programme 220, to improve Ongley and Manawaroa sports field drainage, and Programme 260, for replacement of sports field irrigation systems at Fitzherbert and Ongley parks, have not been included in the plan.

This is a major concern to the MCA because it could result in the city losing more tournaments.

MCA board grounds and facilities director Mark Cleaver said: "Palmerston North has lost first-class cricket, Gillette Cup cricket, and is in danger of losing the hosting rights to a range of other national secondary school and age-group tournaments because of the poor quality of the pitches and facilities."

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- Manawatu Standard

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