Cup organisers want Hagley Oval assurances

GEOFF LONGLEY
Last updated 05:00 19/06/2013

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World Cup cricket organisers want to know Hagley Oval's proposed re-development is progressing smoothly before they will allocate matches to Christchurch for the 2015 tournament.

Organisers are due to announce venues, dates and fixtures within weeks for the tournament to be held in early 2015.

New Zealand's World Cup chief executive Therese Walsh said yesterday organisers want an assurance that approval to redevelop Hagley Oval was headed "in the right direction" before any firm commitment to the city could be made.

Organisers are unlikely to have any certainty because the Environment Court, which is hearing the resource consent application, won't release a decision until August at the earliest.

The hearing has been extended into this week to allow Canterbury Cricket to respond to issues raised over traffic congestion at the nearby Christchurch Hospital.

Closing arguments are scheduled for July 1 before Judge Jane Borthwick, who has indicated she will reserve her decision.

Walsh said it was unacceptable for Christchurch to provide only temporary facilities at Hagley Oval to host World Cup matches, as has been mooted by opponents.

If that was the case Canterbury could only expect to be allocated warmup matches at best, she said.

"The organising committee has a set of criteria that must be met to stage games and will be sticking to those," Walsh said.

"We want Christchurch to make a meaningful contribution to the World Cup and that includes some permanent infrastructure."

She was referring to the proposed Oval ground upgrade, including a raised embankment, a modern pavilion capable of hosting players, spectators and officials, and floodlights.

Walsh said organisers were prepared to announce Christchurch at the venue and date launch provided they had positive indications the development was going ahead.

She said she had been monitoring the Environment Court proceedings and did not believe any of the objections raised were insurmountable.

"Obviously Hagley Park hosts a number of major events each year including the garden show and concerts in the park where traffic flows and various issues have to be dealt with."

"The World Cup committee desperately wants Christchurch to be involved and, given Canterbury's heritage and tradition in the game, feel it is vital they are involved in a significant way."

It has been rumoured Christchurch may be given the tournament's opening game in New Zealand plus another important match.

Walsh believed it was crucial for the city's economic redevelopment that there was a permanent cricket venue capable of hosting major matches.

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Walsh, chief operating officer for the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand two years ago, said organisers did not want Christchurch to miss out on a world event again after being unable to host rugby matches when the 2011 earthquakes rendered Lancaster Park unusable.

- The Press

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