Hockey could be more accessible

By Lawrence Gullery

Hockey's two-decade migration from grass to turf courts has proved successful in producing elite players, but for others the limited space and cost to train and play has forced them out of the sport.

A new hockey stadium in Hastings could turn that around and supporters of the proposed international hockey turf, at the Hawke's Bay Regional Sports park, had their chance to say why when they presented to the Hastings District Council's long-term plan hearing on Friday.

Haumoana woman Carla McDougall had played for Akina Rovers hockey club for 24 years and is involved in the Hawke's Bay Masters. She said player numbers had dwindled from the days when games were on grass courts and there were many clubs.

The move to turf was accepted as a way to produce higher-quality players. But demand was high with just two turf courts at the Park Island hockey stadium in Napier for everyone to use.

"We are now in a position where we have Hawke's Bay representative players training on tennis courts in Hastings because we can't find the space for them," Ms McDougall said.

"As adults we give up the best places to train the younger players because they are the future of the sport but adults should be able to train and play somewhere as well."

New Zealand Maori Hockey's Takitimu (including Hawke's Bay) delegate Anne Waapu told the council a turf in Hastings could inspire people to pick up their sticks and return to the sport.

"As far as whether it should be a tier 1 turf, the sport is developing in a new direction where it is becoming a spectator sport," Ms Waapu said.

"It needs to be safe for people to watch and that's what a tier 1 turf can do. This is another change towards the future, just like the change to turf, and we ask that you take some leadership otherwise we will be left behind."

Hawke's Bay Hockey's Iain Taylor and Hastings Boys' High School sports co-ordinator Dean Hulls also put their names behind the hockey proposal.

Mr Taylor was asked by councillors if Hawke's Bay Hockey had been asked to financially contribute to the proposed stadium. He said the organisation had not, but he would be willing to take the question back to its board.

Mr Taylor also made it clear the turf would be made available to club and secondary school players, most of whom came from Hastings and Central Hawke's Bay.

He said the tier 1 turf would not be restricted to elite players.

"Having a third turf in Hastings would make the sport more available to people and the volume of players would reduce the costs of being involved in hockey," Mr Taylor said.

Most submissions to the long-term plan on the issue supported the hockey stadium proposal. But a summary of community feedback from "tear-off" responses in a questionnaire on the plan did not support it.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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