Controversial cricket nets prove their worth
It tore the community and council apart but Pukekura Park's new cricket nets have done their job and kept top-level games at the iconic venue.
With the pitch laid, cages up and grass growing, the $425,000 Fillis St nets will be ready to use when the Central Stags play the Otago Volts on March 10 next year.
The match is the third of five national top-level cricket games scheduled for the park this season. Three of those are Twenty20 games and two are A-list one-day matches.
That schedule is proof enough that the New Plymouth District Council was right in its decision to fund the nets late last year, Taranaki Cricket Association chairman Neil Sulzberger said.
"You cannot go past the fact the investment has sown rewards already with the amount of top level cricket we have been able to bring to Pukekura Park, and there is a secure future," he said.
In a split decision last year, councillors controversially decided to pay for half the nets from end-of-year surplus after a late offer to cover the other half came through from the TSB Community Trust.
Without the nets New Zealand Cricket said the ground would lose its "warrant of fitness" and they would no longer schedule top-level matches there.
Despite that, the decision to plough ahead with the nets split the council as it came just days after the council had decided not to fund the nets prior to the trust's offer and when their share was $325,000.
Andrew Judd was thrown out of the meeting and John McLeod infamously took to Facebook to vent his frustrations. There he stated mayor Harry Duynhoven "had no balls" and chief executive Barbara McKerrow was a "piece of skirt", which led to council spending approximately $43,000 on legal advice about how to deal with such comments.
In the community there was widespread scepticism the nets could be built within budget, were in the right place or that they were needed at all.
The Taranaki Chamber of Commerce said the decision showed the council had a "complete disregard for economic times".
Yesterday, Mr Duynhoven said that the nets appeared far lower than original drawings seemed to indicate and the controversy around their construction would definitely be worth it to cricket supporters.
"And the green colour is a lot less harsh then the galvanised we were originally shown. It's not as intrusive as many feared," he said.
Council parks manager Mark Bruhn said the project came home within its $425,000 budget but wet winter weather had put it one month behind schedule, meaning it would not be ready for Twenty20 games as originally planned.
Franks Hutchins, who lives across the road from the nets and had proposed an alternative location for the facility, yesterday said that he would still rather they weren't there, but he "wasn't losing any sleep over them".
Taranaki Daily News