Doubt over Hagley oval despite plan listing

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 01/08/2012
Hagley cricket oval
CRICKET OVAL: The plan 'provisionally' sites a new cricket oval on the site of the present oval in Hagley Park.
Warwick Isaacs
BLUEPRINT: Warwick Isaacs was charged with overseeing the 100 day plan.

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The proposed development to turn Hagley Oval into an international cricket venue is far from a fait accompli despite being listed in this week's Christchurch Central Recovery Plan (CCRP).

Its inclusion in the 120-page document released on Monday initially looked a massive shot in the arm for Canterbury Cricket and their proposed $20m upgrade of the Oval.

The Press understands the city's decision-makers are unsure of their own powers and the development remains uncertain.

A High Court decision last week challenged Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee and Cera's powers to bypass existing laws. The court ruled that Brownlee "stepped outside the legal limits" in decisions redrawing housing boundaries.

Any changes to Hagley Oval are subject to the 1977 Reserves Act and the Resource Management Act, and would need to go through a public notification process unless Brownlee and Christchurch Earthquake Recovery Authority (Cera) attempt to ride over the top.

On radio yesterday, Cera boss Roger Sutton said the development was "not a high priority" and was included in the plan, "to show where it might be".

Christchurch Central Development Unit director Warwick Isaacs last week said Canterbury Cricket's proposal would be included in the blueprint as a "place-holder to see what ultimately happens".

Isaacs yesterday said they needed to "get a better understanding of what the impact of the court's decision on the minister's powers are in that regard to see whether or not it has any impact on what may or may not happen in the park".

Last month the 13 city councillors voted 12-1 against the proposal.

Yet the language in the CCRP indicated the plan for Hagley Oval had been given the green light.

"The existing cricket oval on Hagley Park will be enhanced, providing central Christchurch with a venue capable of hosting domestic cricket matches and tests," it said. That included floodlights for limited-over internationals, and a raised embankment with a spectator capacity of 15,000-20,000, plus a new pavilion.

Any delay could cost Christchurch the chance of hosting 2015 World Cup games.

Canterbury Cricket chief executive Lee Germon has previously said that World Cup organisers need to know by the end of August if "Christchurch is going to be a serious contender to host matches".

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Meanwhile, Save Hagley Park spokesman Martin Meehan said the whole situation was confusing.

He has been waiting a week for Mayor Bob Parker to contact him regarding queries he had. The Save Hagley Park organisation was still staunchly against the initial $1.4m development of the ground at Hagley Oval, as well as Canterbury Cricket's fullblown proposal.

Isaacs yesterday said the ground development was going ahead "about now" but Meehan was disappointed it was being given the go-ahead when the future of the bigger project remained uncertain.

At the weekend Save Hagley Park announced it was considering filing an injunction against the ground upgrade, but Meehan yesterday said after encouragement from council staff, it had held off.

Civic Trust board member and Lincoln University emeritus professor of transport and logistics Chris Kissling previously said the move to go ahead with the ground development seemed "to be a case of going ahead to the point where completion [of the bigger development] is the only logical option".

Kissling described the move as a "sin now and ask for forgiveness later" approach. Meehan agreed.

Germon could not be reached for comment yesterday, but his organisation is understood to want the ground development to go ahead principally to provide a first-class venue in the city this summer. The move was to bring domestic cricket back to the city, instead of the Canterbury men's team being based largely in Rangiora.

- The Press

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