New Zealand news March 16, 2013

Proposed flyover threatens Basin Reserve's backdrop

The backdrop to the Basin Reserve, one of the most picturesque cricket venues in the world, will change significantly if the go-ahead is given to build a flyover close to one corner of the ground.

The project, part of a nation-wide road-improvement scheme, will see an elevated section of road about nine meters high skirt the north of the ground in order to alleviate traffic congestion around the Basin. It is expected to be rubber-stamped later this year although there is strong opposition from those who feel it will ruin the viewing experience while there are also worries over noise and pollution.

Most vocal among these is Save the Basin who are lobbying to have the plan shelved. They argue that a tunnel would be a better option or a modification to the current roundabout network around the Basin while they are also worried about the impact on the heritage listed buildings in the area, not just at the cricket ground.

"The Transport Agencies own ratings found the development would have negative impacts in seven of the nine categories, particularly the heritage of the area," Tim Jones, from the Save the Basin campaign, said. "Cities around the world are deciding against flyovers for a host of reasons. We feel there are viable alternatives."

However, if the roadway is constructed it will not impact the ground itself. Cricket Wellington, who have been in long talks about the proposal with the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA), have given their support on the basis that suitable shielding be provided to hide the flyover.

To that end, the ground is negotiating for a new stand to the left of the current pavilion. It will not be used for spectators - Cricket Wellington say they do not want extra capacity - instead it will provided enhanced player facilities to replace the current dressing rooms that have become outdated.

Peter Clinton, the chief executive of Cricket Wellington, said: "The proposed plans for the flyover have always been that any structure would not impact the actual physical boundaries of the Basin. The plans are that it would skirt 20 metres north of the boundary of the ground.

"Obviously there are some concerns around the visual impact and noise impact on any sport going on in the ground. The Trust has been very robust in its view on this, and has been from the start, that it won't necessarily object to the building of the bridge - as it is known - as long as the environment inside the Basin isn't compromised."

The other current key issue for cricket in Wellington is the allocation of World Cup matches for 2015 event that will be jointly held between New Zealand and Australia. The city have put in a joint bid between the Westpac Stadium, where one-day internationals and Twenty20s are held, and the Basin Reserve who hope to be chosen as a warm-up venue.

Although, aesthetically, it would be ideal to have tournament matches at the Basin there is an acceptance that the Westpac is the more suitable location for limited-overs cricket with a larger capacity and floodlights. The construction schedule for the flyover would also have it being built during the World Cup.

However, there are some scheduling issues to overcome before the Westpac is guaranteed matches as they are due to host the Rugby 7s during what would be the ICC blackout period around the World Cup and the venue is also used for the Wellington Phoenix football team.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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