Hagley Oval Opinion

In my current role, as CEO of the Tourism Industry Association NZ, supporting the rebuild and reinvigoration of Christchurch has become a priority. Like many, I wait with great anticipation and hope for the vision, direction and certainty that the blueprint plan, to be released within the next few days, should and must provide.

As well as signalling long-term direction, I hope this blueprint also caters for further short-term reinvigoration initiatives along the lines of the successful Re-Start Mall and the Addington rugby stadium initiatives. Christchurch can’t sit and wait five years or more for vibrancy to return to the city.

It is in this light that I have been keenly following the public debate relating to Canterbury Cricket’s proposal that a fairly modest-sized section of Hagley Park, already in regular use by cricket, be upgraded to a standard suitable for use as an international cricket, including as a venue to host matches during Cricket World Cup 2015.

This is not a new debate. Since the late 1990s, when Canterbury Cricket effectively ceded its rights to use Lancaster Park to professional rugby, it has been searching for a new home. Whilst the Village Green at QE 11 filled a purpose, the general feeling within cricket was that Hagley Park was the best location. In theory, that is. Pre-earthquake, it was clear to most of us involved in these discussions that, in reality, for a variety of historical and other understandable reasons, Hagley was off-limits to any permanent stadium development, no matter how much such development could be blended in with the Park’s overall look and feel.

This search for cricket’s permanent home rambled on through the first decade of the new century with no resolution in sight.

February 22, 2011 has changed the whole landscape in Christchurch. One consequence amongst many is that some of your better facilities, sporting and community, are now out of commission, some permanently. For Canterbury Cricket, that means that their options for a permanent home, one capable of hosting international cricket, have been sharply reduced. Arguably down to one sensible option, Hagley Park.

I don’t for one moment dismiss the validity of the arguments being put forward by those who strongly oppose Canterbury Cricket’s plan. There is, and always has been, a specialness about the place of Hagley Park as an accessible gem within your community. Canterbury Cricket accepts this, as is shown by the sensitive steps it has taken to blend its proposed design with its greater surrounds. No one wants to destroy or significantly disturb what everyone loves about this parkland space.

As I understand, what Canterbury Cricket is proposing will nicely compliment what exists now and will be minimalistic in its use of this space, in the same way that netball’s and golf’s facilities and events like the Ellerslie Flower Show and Christmas in the Park, for short periods of time each year, have adorned other parts of Hagley.

In the end, this decision requires the wisdom of Solomon to enable authorities to find the delicate balance which enables preservation and progress to sit comfortably with each other.

Momentum around Christchurch’s reinvigoration has been generated by the likes of the Re-Start Mall and the return of the Crusaders to home soil. The return of international cricket, with Cricket World Cup 2015 providing an ideal catalyst and project timeframe, will add to that momentum. Canterbury Cricket’s proposal is much more an opportunity than a risk for your community.

Martin Sneddon
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