Vision to make Hagley Oval 'for all generations'

HEARING: Lee Germon, chief executive of Canterbury Cricket, leaves the hearing into the Hagley Park development held at the Sudima Hotel.
HEARING: Lee Germon, chief executive of Canterbury Cricket, leaves the hearing into the Hagley Park development held at the Sudima Hotel.

Canterbury Cricket says that even if it fails to secure 2015 World Cup matches it will push ahead with its planned development of Hagley Oval as an international cricket venue.

"If our bid to host matches at this tournament is unsuccessful, our proposal for Hagley Oval will remain unchanged,'' Canterbury Cricket chief executive Lee Germon said in evidence presented to the Environment Court today.

"The vision for Hagley Oval is a ground for all generations for hundreds of years. The proposal meets the current and future needs of cricket in our city.''

CRICKET FIGHT: A legal battle over Canterbury Cricket's controversial plans to develop Hagley Oval is in its final days.
CRICKET FIGHT: A legal battle over Canterbury Cricket's controversial plans to develop Hagley Oval is in its final days.

He said the search for a first-class and test venue in Christchurch had lasted for more than 10 years.

Before the earthquakes, the plan was to develop Hagley Oval as a venue for tests and to use the old AMI Stadium for other international fixtures.

After the quakes, with AMI Stadium damaged beyond repair, the proposal for the development of Hagley Oval was changed so the ground could host all forms of first-class and international cricket.

The proposal before the court had been developed to minimise the environmental impact but still meet Iinternational Cricket Council requirements and develop a ground that would be able to play a significant role in the 2015 ICC World Cup and host cricket for many generations.

"Major fixtures will feature on Hagley Oval on a small number of days throughout the season but will provide wonderful opportunities for Christchurch as a city and the people of Christchurch in regard to exposure to major international events,'' Germon said.

He said consideration had been given to using temporary lights rather than erecting permanent lighting towers around the oval, but it was not considered viable because of the cost and "ongoing availability issues of the necessary infrastructure".

Estimates obtained last year for temporary lighting put the cost at $314,000 per match.

Asked by Hands Off Hagley counsel Margo Perpick whether Canterbury Cricket would proceed with the development of Hagley Oval if it got permission for the embankments and the pavilion but not for the lighting towers, Germon said it would push on, but floodlights were "imperative to hosting international cricket''.

Battle lines drawn

The Christchurch City Council and Canterbury Cricket backed the scheme on the first day of a two-week Environment Court hearing into the plan yesterday, but campaign group Hands Off Hagley said it would be a "large and obtrusive pavilion".

Counsel for the city council, Rachel Dunningham, told the Environment Court that the political arm of the council had chosen to take a neutral stance on Canterbury Cricket's resource consent application, but the experts it had engaged to review the application were of the opinion it was "consentable".

They had concluded the effects on the environment of allowing the proposed development to go ahead would be "no more than minor" and that overall the proposal was generally consistent with the relevant planning documents.

Earlier, Canterbury Cricket's lawyer, Pru Steven, told the court the proposed development would enhance, rather than detract, from the recreational use of Hagley Oval.

While some in the community would notice a change in the character and amenity of the park, the opinion of the experts engaged by Canterbury Cricket was that the effects of the development would be no more than minor.

If resource consent was granted, Hagley Oval would continue to be used by the community for club cricket, as it had been for many years.

Major fixtures such as Twenty20 matches and one-day internationals would be held on a maximum of 20 days a season.

It was likely that up to three matches a year would attract spectator crowds of between 12,000 and 20,000. Test matches would attract a maximum of 5000, and it was likely that there would be only one of those per season.

"For the majority of the season, Hagley Oval will be used for local matches. These games would not involve charging for entry, as is the case now, nor any restrictions on public access to the Hagley Oval, apart from the playing surface itself," Steven told the court.

Margo Perpick, counsel for Hands Off Hagley, in her opening submission said there would be significant adverse effects from the massive light towers, the "large and obtrusive pavilion" and the embankment, which would exclude and impede views.

"Those effects would be exacerbated during major cricketing events by the glare produced by the lights, the addition of grandstand seating, portaloos, broadcasting towers, fencing, tents, food outlets, the noise produced by a large crowd and public address system and thousands of vehicles moving in and around the park," she said.

"The current village green character of Hagley Oval would not be kept and the quality and amenity values of the wider Hagley Park environment and the heritage landscape would not be maintained and enhanced."

Patricia Noble, counsel for the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, said Cera's position on the consent process was neutral. It neither supported nor opposed the application.

She said that while a redeveloped Hagley Oval was included in the Government's Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, it did not direct or mandate its development, and therefore the granting of a resource consent was not a fait accompli.

"If it [the application] does not meet the Resource Management Act requirements, it can be declined," Noble said.

The hearing is before Judge Jane Borthwick and commissioners Anne Leijnen and David Bunting.

The Press