Eltham rugby given the boot Soccer wins Taumata Park

Last updated 05:00 25/02/2014

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An 11th-hour bid to save Eltham rugby from eviction has failed.

Last night the South Taranaki District Council voted 9-3 to boot the club off Taumata Park in favour of a flourishing soccer side.

The plan, pushed by the town's community board, means all rugby games will be moved down the road to Soldiers Park, a ground with no changing areas and insufficient toilets and lights.

Eltham AFC, which has greater player numbers, will now use both Taumata and Saunders parks, finally letting the club escape the swamp known as Taylor Park.

The debate over which code gets which ground has stirred up passions in the small town, and there was standing room only as the council chamber filled with players, coaches and officials.

Eltham Rugby Club spokeswoman Sarah Mako urged a stay of execution until a better solution could be found.

"If the rugby club is relocated to Soldiers Park for the 2014 season this will create not only major issues for us, but for you," she said.

"I would like you to explain how the toilets are expected to fare after one game when 40 players, three game officials, team officials, supporters and spectators have utilised the toilets.

"Or how the road verge is likely to cope after buses and cars have parked along it."

Miss Mako again questioned the level of consultation undertaken by the council.

She said the club had been responsible for the establishment and development of the park's facilities, and were a vital part of their identity.

"It is estimated that the man hours spent not just on the upgrades but the Taumata Park upkeep over the last 30 years would be in excess of $100,000."

Taranaki Rugby Football Union chief executive Michael Collins also urged the council to delay the move so the club could find a solution.

Earlier this month, the New Zealand Rugby Union asked the council to defer the eviction until there were appropriate facilities and improved ground drainage at Soldiers Park.

The idea of a mini sporting hub was also mooted but put to one side in favour of fixing soccer's issues immediately.

Eltham AFC spokesman Mark Mekalick said they would honour the facility by turning it into a sporting fortress.

"We understand that the 2014 winter season is very close and that there will be some inconveniences by tonight's decision," he said. "From our point of view it is urgent and couldn't happen soon enough. Our clubrooms at Taylor Park are in such as state we are not too sure how much longer it is going to last."

Councillors Kirsty Bourke, Phil Nixon and Ian Wards demanded a stay of execution for one season to allow the rugby club time to bring the other field up to scratch.

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However, the remaining councillors said they were fixing a numbers game that was heavily weighted in Eltham AFC's favour.

The council will now investigate the development, funding and ownership options for a "clubroom type" facility on Taumata Park, while improving lighting at Soldiers Park for the rugby club.

The council also agreed to find a use for the Taylor Park pitch.

After the meeting, Eltham Rugby Club spokesman Rawiri Mako said he was "extremely disappointed" by the decision.

"They haven't considered rugby for one minute," he said.

"They paid lip service to it but haven't considered it."

- Taranaki Daily News


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