As cricket cancellation woes continue to plague McLean Park, it has been revealed the Napier council had planned to re-turf the grounds during the 2016-17 financial year - a $900,000 project that did not eventuate.
Cricket New Zealand’s chief operating officer Andrew Crummy said a complete review of the McLean Park outfield was undertaken following the abandonment of the West Indies ODI in 2013, and as part of preparations for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015.
He said this resulted in an upgrade of the drainage in the area in front of the Harris Stand.
According to the NCC’s Long Term Plan, the authority was set to re-turf McClean Park sometime between June last year and June this year.
Page 60 of the LTP shows McLean Park was slated for a gradual re-turf over a three-year period to begin in the 2016-17 financial year.
The total cost for this project, to be fully funded by rates, came in at $849,000 – with $473,000 to be spent in the current FY, $109,000 to be spent in the next FY and $267,000 to be spent over 2018-19.
However, this changed in the space of 12 months with NCC’s 2016-17 Annual Plan [page 49], showing that no money was set aside to start the re-turf to begin this financial year.
Instead, it was decided that $51,000 is to be spent on this project next year, and $842,000 for the 2018-19 FY.
Moreover, the project grew by $44,000 year on year, with no explanation from council as to why this extra money was needed.
However, today the council’s chief executive Wayne Jack announced the authority is preparing to completely replace the turf, and will do so as soon as possible.
“With the life span of the turf in mind, Council had already budgeted almost $900,000 through the LTP for a full replacement in 2018-19,” he said.
“However, with the knowledge we now have, we’re bringing this project forward into 2017 so that we can get games back on the ground in Napier as soon as logistically possible.”
And so the Park will be re-turfed with Jack saying that the project will include improvements to irrigation, drainage, the playing surface and lighting.
“We’ve forecasted for this, we have the funds, and we will now reallocate those funds with urgency,” he said.
However, this time frame Jack speaks of is still behind the one set out in the council’s LTP.
Jack’s announcement comes off the back of a public sledging and the ensuing media storm over the recent cancellation of the Chappell-Hadlee one-day international between the Black Caps following 6mm of rain making the outfield too wet to play on.
The Manawatu Standard’s Peter Lampp said in an opinion piece last week that McLean Park has been “the supposed holy grail” of Central Districts cricket grounds.
“But now it seems when the Hawke's Bay droughts break, it needs waterproofing or it will be usurped by Nelson's boutique Saxton Oval, off the beaten track,” he said.
“McLean Park should have had adequate sand drainage to soak up 6 millimetres of rain, even without any sun or wind to dry the joint.”
To add to this the Park will no longer host the upcoming South Africa cricket ODI on March 1 due to the risk of another washout.
The cancellation followed an independent assessment of the ground which prompted New Zealand Cricket owners of the venue – Napier council - to move the game to Hamilton.
The council said this decision, while disappointing, was “the right one”.
The city’s Mayor Bill Dalton he was “bitterly disappointed on behalf of the fans, and for the players, and the council.”
He says an assessors’ report found the turf at McLean Park was “no longer fit for purpose”.
“The investigation has uncovered some problems with the ground – problems that are not able to be resolved in time for March 1,” he said.
Crummy said the report was a culmination of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the recently abandoned ODI.
He said the findings of the investigation left few options open but the one agreed.
“There have been shortcomings identified in McLean Park’s drainage and irrigation system which need to be remedied before we can be confident of avoiding what happened in the Chappell-Hadlee fixture,” he said.
“The investigation concludes that drought conditions in the Hawke’s Bay necessitated significant levels of watering in the days leading up to the match which, combined with a limited drainage infrastructure and rain on match-day, resulted in a worst-case scenario.”
Crummy said while it is true that several measures could be employed to help mitigate this risk ahead of the South Africa match even then, any period of significant or extended rain in the lead-up would likely result in the same outcome.
“[As such], NZC, the Central Districts Cricket Association and the NCC agree this risk is unacceptable,” he said.