Melville ground sold off

17:00, Jun 29 2012

Stan Heather Park in Melville, which has hosted rugby games for more than 50 years, is to close, a move Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker says will be good for the city.

Hamilton Rugby Union has voted unanimously to sell the iconic seven-hectare park to a developer. The park was bought by the Hamilton Rugby Union, an affiliate of the Waikato Rugby Union, in 1953 and has been maintained at no cost to the Hamilton City Council.

Mayor Hardaker said it was important to note the park had never been available to the public, with a barbed wire fence along its perimeter.

The park is zoned as a recreational area but the council plans to rezone it for residential use and estimates up to 80 medium-sized residential sections could be created. Under city council requirements the new buyer must retain some of the land for a public reserve.

"It's good news for the city as it will be open to the public, Ms Hardaker said.

Hamilton Rugby Union chairman Peter Way said the board had received eight strong tenders but had agreed upon one from a local developer at the meeting on Thursday night.

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Mr Way said it was unfortunate they were unable to sustain the maintenance and costs of the ground after talks to resolve the issue were first held with the city council in 2001. "In my opinion the Hamilton City Council should have bought it." The sale of the park had become more pressing over the years after no solution had been put forward by the city council which was now pleading poverty, he said.

Ms Hardaker said the city council over the past 12 years had made it clear it would not purchase the land and was not in a financial position to do so.

"It has been a consistent message."

Mr Way would not disclose what price had been put on the park. An agreement has been reached with the new owner over the use of the ground for another season, with the possibility of a second.

Waikato Times