Damning report into McLean Park ODI cricket conditions

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Rain caused a February ODI to be abandoned at McLean Park nearly five hours after the match's scheduled start. Photo / File
Rain caused a February ODI to be abandoned at McLean Park nearly five hours after the match's scheduled start. Photo / File

Despite a damning report on McLean Park, Napier City Council remains confident the venue will be ready to host international cricket by December.

The Napier venue was set to host an ODI between the Black Caps and South Africa earlier this week, but it was relocated to Hamilton after a Chappell-Hadlee ODI between the Black Caps and Australia was abandoned in early February.

Fans were left waiting for hours after the last rain fell, with a jointly-commissioned report by the council and New Zealand Cricket into the incident finding the parks ground was not fit for purpose.

This report, authored by specialist turf consultants Sports Surface Design and Management, found a number of failings which yesterday New Zealand Cricket chief operating officer Anthony Crummy elaborated on.

Some decisions made on game day had not been best practice, and he said the park's drainage system was in poor condition and needed replacing.

He also noted the decision on game day to use a Super Sopper towed by a tractor to remove surface water was "not ideal".

The report also indicated the decision to water the grounds ahead of the February 2 match was not good management.

Due to hot conditions, Mr Crummy said this was not unreasonable, but the combination of this and rain highlighted the ground's deterioration.

Council chief executive Wayne Jack said the report's findings were not unexpected, but the council was surprised to find the sand carpet contained high levels of organic matter blocking the water being able to get down to the drains.

Mr Jack said there had been unusually high temperatures in the months before the match, coupled with below-average rainfall.

"The turf at McLean Park is sand-based, it needs to be kept moist or else it will dry out very quickly.

"It's a balance between putting water on it and understanding what's happening with the drainage - at that time, we did not have a full understanding, but we now know that the water was getting stuck between the layers."

The February 2 match was the third to be abandoned at McLean Park since a December 2013 West Indies match, after which a report was commissioned and the grounds received a drainage upgrade.

Mr Jack said drainage issues in front of the Harris Stand had been dealt with by installing vertical slits in the ground.

However, Mr Crummy said the authors of the 2017 report had "raised some questions" about this 2014 report, authored by the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute, and suggested the institute might need to reflect on the terms of reference of that review.

"Whether they did a good enough job or not, that's probably the view of two different consultants and how they see things, and that's a matter for Napier City Council to consider."

When asked where the responsibility lay, Mr Crummy said while NZC played a role in the preparation for matches, "we certainly rely on the expertise and the advice of the venue authority [the council] because they're the ones that know their grounds".

Mr Crummy said NZC worked with ground staff at all venues on their preparations, but ultimately the grounds staff made their own calls, based on their own intuition and expertise.

"The grounds staff are the ones that know their ground better than anyone so they'll make their decision, so ultimately we have to trust them to make the right call."

Mr Jack said the council turf team had done a great job, considering the turf was 19 years old.

"It's been fantastic working with New Zealand Cricket - they have been very supportive and they are keen to come back and we are keen to have them here."

A turf upgrade is expected to cost at least $900,000. Mr Jack said the council had full confidence it would be ready and in good condition by mid-December this year.

Mr Crummy said this appeared to be "very achievable".

Mr Jack pointed out the re-turf was also to accommodate other sports and events at the park.

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