NZRU stands up for Eltham club over eviction

The New Zealand Rugby Union has thrown its weight behind the Eltham club as it stares down a likely eviction from Taumata Park by the South Taranaki District Council.

Buck Anderson, the NZRU's general manager of community and provincial rugby, tabled a letter that makes up part of a 30-page submission to the council by the Eltham Rugby Club.

The submission follows the council's policy development committee's decision to support the Eltham Community Board's plan to let the Eltham Associated Football Club use Taumata and Saunders parks at the expense of rugby.

The community board wants the rugby club to move to Soldiers Park where there are no changing areas, toilets or lights.

Anderson said the national body fully supported the submission of the rugby club to keep the status quo. "We understand that the alternative ground proposed is substandard and could pose possible health and safety implications to our players and believe the re- quest to defer the eviction of the rugby club, until at least next season, giving time to construct appropriate facilities and improve ground drainage should be permitted."

The NZRU's view has been backed up by Taranaki rugby clubs, while Taranaki Rugby Football Union has also urged the council to rethink a possible eviction.

All have cited the possible health problems associated with the lack of changing areas and toilets.

"The TRFU feel that the tight time frames that the Eltham Rugby Club has to respond to the STDC policy development committee meeting request was a tough ask for a volunteer organisation," TRFU chief executive Michael Collins wrote.

"The club competition is due to commence in seven weeks which if the proposed relocation is approved, is inadequate in terms of getting basic facilities moved onto Soldiers Park."

Preliminary costings obtained by the Eltham club put the price of building new changing rooms, as well as a storeroom and field lighting, at $375,000.

Costs for roading improvements in the areas surrounding Soldiers Park have also been sought and are believed to be in excess of $25,000.

The decision of the community board and the policy development committee has been met with deep regret by former players, coaches and administrators.

Former Taranaki coach Don Carlson, 87, who played in championship winning Eltham sides, was disgusted at the proposal.

"We [the club] built everything at the park and to have to move is bloody crazy," he said. "If they take the field away from them, it's going to be the finish of them."

Eltham Rugby Club spokesman Rawiri Mako felt the whole process had been angled on getting the club off the park.

He also stressed that the club had been responsible for the establishment and development of the park's facilities.

"It would have been way more palatable if they had something [changing rooms] in place for us to go to."

The council is due to meet and vote on the matter on February 24.

A Taranaki Daily News online poll attracted 707 votes on the matter, with 37.2 per cent in favour of rugby staying, 39.3 per cent in favour of the football club moving to the park, while 23.5 per cent did not know.

Taranaki Daily News