Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Study backs $103m bill for rain-hit sports fields

Waterlogging causes a 20 per cent cancellation rate for Auckland's winter sports games. Photo / Martin Sykes
Waterlogging causes a 20 per cent cancellation rate for Auckland's winter sports games. Photo / Martin Sykes

Auckland's 20 per cent cancellation rate for winter sports games because of water-logged fields has led to a call for a $103 million boost to field improvements over the next decade.

A regional sports-field supply-and-demand study for 10 years ahead predicts greater closures of sports fields - especially for training - hitting players of football, rugby league and rugby.

Auckland Council closes fields when it thinks further play could cause long-term damage to the surface.

This season, the Herald reported dozens of complaints from parents about children missing five out of 16 scheduled games, mostly for soccer, which is the most popular.

Council parks, recreation and heritage forum chairwoman Sandra Coney said the study results showed the need for increased funding for sports fields.

It estimated $10.3 million a year over the next decade, and she would ask for that when the council prepared its long-term budget.

"We need to meet rapidly increasing demand and provide playing surfaces that stand up to high use and wet winters."

Sports parks manager Mark Bowater said the Longdill & Associates study confirmed the need for additional playing capacity to meet the expected demand.

The money would provide 20 new artificial fields - half of them in the central area, four in the south and three each in the north and west. However, there would still be a potential need for up to 300 sand-carpet field upgrades to help meet shortfalls for training.

The move for more capital improvements was welcomed yesterday by Howick parent Navzad Cooverji, who said the Fencibles 10th grade soccer team could not play a game from June 4 until July 30. Despite the lack of competitive games, he said, the team won the Clendon Football Tournament.

"Thank you, that would be welcome," said Mr Cooverji.

The present regional budget for capital improvement is $25 million, and $30 million is spent on field maintenance.

The Longdill study found the region's 777 winter fields for community use gave the capacity for 8544 playing hours a week and could meet demand - if it were not for wet-day closures.

It was predicted that the shortfall in capacity because of the closures would worsen from 1724 hours to 2216 hours in a dry season, and to 2984 hours allowing for closures.

Auckland sports field supply:

* 4666 football, rugby and league teams

* 7849 field hours demand

* 1724 hours short (when wet)

* 2216 hours short (dry) in 10 years

* 2984 hours short (wet) in 10 years

- NZ Herald

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