Slumping mires groundwork

By Alexandra Newlove

5 comments
Slumping ground at Pohe Island is hampering plans for clubrooms to complement new rugby and soccer fields. Photo / Tania Whyte
Slumping ground at Pohe Island is hampering plans for clubrooms to complement new rugby and soccer fields. Photo / Tania Whyte

Building a large rugby facility on a former Whangarei rubbish dump has proven a difficult, technical job and raised a debate about who should foot the bill that is mounting on the sidelines.

Whangarei District Council (WDC) has agreed to give facility backers Northland Rugby Union and Old Boys Marist (OBM) RFC $27,425 to drill deep into the ground at Pohe Island to find out what might be needed to make their 2500sq m fit-for-purpose facility possible.

The WDC-owned site on the former landfill was pre-disposed to slumping.

The council's contribution was half the $54,850 needed for the drilling check, with the other half to be paid by NRU.

The facility, first proposed in 2013, was amid five new sand fields. Ongoing negotiations meant the $3.2 million space, which would include clubrooms, a gymnasium, changing rooms, a cafe and office space, would not be built in time for the 2017 season, including the British Irish Lions Tour in June.

Wayne Brown, chairman of the Pohe Island Committee which comprises members from both rugby organisations, said while it was disappointing, "good things take time".

"The time frame has drifted a bit because no one has wanted to pick up the cost associated with the ground issues," Mr Brown said.

The rugby organisations originally asked WDC for $850,000 to set deep concrete piles and a slab on which to build - a solid foundation in case the ground slumped. The council declined this in early 2016 but at its meeting last Wednesday agreed to pay half the geotech bill.

The council owed OBM $450,000 as part of an agreement for the club to vacate their current home at Okara. The council's proposed sale of that site has since been blocked by the Environment Court.

The clubs said WDC agreed to provide OBM a "fit for purpose" site for their replacement clubrooms.

"[The $27,425] sounds like it's not a bad result," Mr Brown said. "The council have acknowledged there is an issue with the land they're giving us and are now willing to work with us in solving that problem. Originally they were saying, 'it's your problem'."

WDC group manager Simon Weston said NRU was aware of Pohe Island's "challenges" from the outset, and councillor Tricia Cutforth said there was an assumption the council would come through with the "below ground" funding.

"I'm concerned that there's a bit of give an inch, take a mile," Ms Cutforth said.

NRU representatives told the Advocate they would not rule out asking WDC for more money toward the foundations, subject to the findings of the drilling report. NRU chief executive Alistair McGinn said he was most encouraged WDC were prepared to fund half of the money for the drilling as a contribution to the project.

- Northern Advocate

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