March 9, 2002

Hagley Park - Some ask why, others ask why not?

As New Zealand rugby's fortunes implode, the stance of those who drew up the Super 12 programme for this season may have been the biggest favour cricket in Otago and Canterbury have had done for them in recent times.

Not that that sentiment over-rides the abysmal approach of rugby officials to their former joint partners at Carisbrook and Jade Stadium.

But by forcing Otago and Canterbury to Queenstown and Hagley Oval respectively, cricket has opened up new vistas for future matches.

The appeal of hosting international teams in Queenstown in the future is obvious. It is a visual delight, a new jewel in cricket's crown and as one British observer who has been on many cricket tours to many cricket countries said, Queenstown's Events Centre was without doubt the most attractive venue of them all.

Questioned as to whether Cape Town's Newlands with Table Mountain as the backdrop could compete, he said: "Newlands only has Table Mountain, this has the Remarkables, that there (Queenstown hill) and that there (Coronet Peak), as well as the lake."

With some work done on the drainage at the ground, and a slight raising of the pitch to avoid the problems with water seepage under covers, it would be ideal.

But it is the Canterbury move to Hagley Oval that has the greater implications for the future.

It is no secret that cricket in Canterbury has been looking for a permanent base for its first-class programme.

The debate over whether to continue developing the Village Green at New Brighton, to get involved in the Sportville complex or to find another location is ongoing.

Enter another candidate into the debate - Hagley Park, not necessarily the Oval used for Canterbury's game with England, but ground somewhere in the vicinity.

It defies logic, and the best intentions of the city planners who designated Hagley Park for the community's recreation, that there is no place for a possible representative venue at the Park.

The sight of people ringing the boundary at the Hagley Oval on Friday and Saturday especially was a marvellous advertisement for the continuing appeal to all generations of the great old game.

Put simply the crowd looked far better suited to this sort of environment than scattered throughout the concrete jungle that has become Jade Stadium, or in the abandoned and wind-blown wastes that are the Village Green.

The financial commitment that would be involved in a Sportville complex are much greater than might be the case if the already available land at Hagley Park was freed up for development as a cricket venue.

The advantages have to be that the ground is accessible to everyone in the community. It's central city location means it is a natural focal point in much the same way that the Basin Reserve is in Wellington.

If Canterbury Cricket reckon on Hagley Oval as their best bet, and the last three days must be a factor in their thinking, Christchurch's councillors and administrators may have to think about is what is the greater good for the community.

The park is designated for public use so what is the difference between weekend cricket and representative cricket with the odd international?

Is increased usage of an area of the park to the detriment of the public at large and what benefits might it produce in enhancing the inner city?

Chances are that these are questions the city is going to have to address in the near future and the debate should be interesting.