Anger over state of pitches

GEORGE HEAGNEY
Last updated 12:00 01/05/2012

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The Manawatu Cricket Association has hit out at the poor state of council-funded pitches, calling them an "utter embarrassment" that will make it difficult to lure back first class men's cricket to the region.

But Palmerston North City Council staff believe things are heading in the right direction to get the pitches to an acceptable level.

In the council's draft 10-year plan, there hasn't been enough money pencilled in to upgrade pitches and outfields at Fitzherbert, Manawaroa and Ongley parks, which need drainage upgrades, the MCA said.

Manawatu had no first-class men's games this summer, but council operations manager John Trollope said there had been regular contact with the MCA to try to solve the problem with the grounds.

"We understand there's some work to be done, " he said.

"There's lots of jobs that need to be done and it's up to the council. That's what they're doing with the drainage."

He said they knew cricket was important to the city and they were working now to have things ready for next season.

Groundsman Malcolm Kohi hasn't been replaced since he resigned mid-season, but Trollope said they were looking for a new groundsman and it wouldn't be too late to have the pitches up to a decent level.

"We've got other staff there, not domiciled at Fitzherbert Park, that have all the skills," Trollope said.

He also put the poor state of the sporting fields down to the wet summer and the number of different sports that use them.

"Dual-purpose fields are a bit more difficult to maintain than ones that just have the one sport on it.

"We're catering for a lot of sports groups on those grounds.

"However, I believe we're on the right track."

MCA general manager Neil Hood had an issue with the council's bill for the 2011-2012 season for the cricket grounds, even though they weren't at an acceptable level.

They were originally charged more than $3000 for the representative grass block on Fitzherbert Park which was only used for two Central Districts Hinds Twenty20 matches all season.

"The state of this block was an utter embarrassment and not only required us to play all our home matches on other grounds, it has also significantly hurt our chances of regaining first-class men's fixtures," Hood said.

They were also charged more than $2000 for a pitch at Manawaroa Park.

But a drain was cut across the outfield before the season started, which prevented full use of the pitch, so they were given a partial discount.

Hood had expected a more significant reduction in the fees, but the finances were only a small part of the problem.

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"What most concerns me is that the council's stance on this seems to be reflective of the apathy they have to our problems and lack of genuine intent to fix the problems," he said.

"We just want the problems fixed in the future."

They were frustrated by what they saw as "a number of petty issues where the council have been trying to save money".

"How the council can think that it makes sense [that] we should be charged full price for the other work done when they clearly haven't been operating anywhere near full capacity is beyond me."

He had a number of other concerns, including the council not wanting to paint the Fitzherbert Park picket fence, staff being told not to waste paint marking 30-yard circles in club games and staff not being given the appropriate supplies to maintain fields.

- Manawatu Standard

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