Archives for posts with tag: Hagley Oval

As I write this, the World Cup opening ceremony is about to kick off in North Hagley Park. On Saturday, the Black Caps will start the tournament against Sri Lanka at Hagley Oval. I’m excited about the World Cup, about it being on New Zealand soil, and about our chances. I love cricket, but I won’t be going to any of the matches. On the eve of the tournament, I thought it was worth recapping why. There are two, related reasons for my stand. I realise it is all in vain, but hey, a moral stand is a moral stand. The first reason is the process that created the oval, and the second is the political significance of the oval itself.

In a recovery littered with shoddy deals, I’d argue that the process that led to the creation of the oval is the shoddiest of them all. The government dropped it into the Blueprint plan, to the surprise of the ratepayers, the council – in fact, to the surprise of everyone but Canterbury Cricket. Canterbury Cricket had been lobbying for years for a new, council-subsidised ground, with little success. After the quakes took out Lancaster Park – a venue that hadn’t been used for test cricket for years, due to the rise of boutique test grounds that are better catered to the smaller crowds the 5-day draws – they saw the opportunity to push for what they had always wanted, but were never going to get: a piece of Hagley Park. The Earthquake Recovery Act and the emergency powers bestowed upon Gerry Brownlee were the perfect opportunity for what was essentially the privatisation of publicly-owned land by a small group of old white men.

The Christchurch City Council – which nominally looks after the land, for the benefit of all citizens of the city – deferred the decision to the Environment Court. Whilst the decision was before the Court, the ICC announced the host venues for the 2015 World Cup. Christchurch was given not only the opening game, but the opening ceremony. However, this was contingent on Hagley Oval being built. So the ICC was prejudging both the Environment Court and the Christchurch City Council, presenting the Oval as a done deal.

Once the go-ahead was given, the cost of the development then became an issue. Budgeted to cost $20 million, Canterbury Cricket only had $500k. It was then revealed that they got $3 million from the Earthquake Recovery Trust, which was funded by donations from New Zealand and around the world in the immediate aftermath of the quakes to help people in need. Canterbury Cricket managed to stretch the meaning of “people in need” to cover building a sports ground. The decision of the Environment Court which gave approval to the project placed conditions on the Oval, which the Cricket World Cup then argued were too strict and tried to have relaxed. My guess is that after the World Cup, they will use the success of the venue during the tournament to argue to further relaxations of the restrictions placed on the development, including more permanent seating.

For the Boxing Day test against Sri Lanka, the ground looked great, and hosted some great cricket. I never doubted that it would. When you put a ground in the middle of Christchurch’s most loved park space, it’s going to look amazing. For most people around the country, they won’t know anything about the political battle over Hagley Oval. The broadcast from Hagley Oval, with a full embankment, BMac taking the bowlers to task, and the commentators full of praise for the ground was just what the government would have wanted. Though they’re sports commentators, not political ones, they were all universal in their praise of the Oval, Canterbury Cricket and Lee Germon. While they might think that they don’t get involved in politics, their normalisation of a locally controversial project was implicitly political. Any mention of the opposition was dismissive, and no-one from the Hands of Hagley group was given a right-of-reply. That’s not the point of cricket commentary – which is exactly why this project is so important to the government. It presents a controversial political development, from a long series of controversial political developments, as an apolitical thing. In a point made more succinctly by Danyl at the Dimpost, this is National’s strategy:

Hooton ascribes part of Key’s popularity to his preeminence as a commentator on light-entertainment shows across New Zealand media. More FM, Breakfast TV, Seven-Sharp, etc. Critically these are (a) news sources for ‘median’ or persuadable voters and (b) they’re formats in which Key can assert his version of any news story unchallenged, and then go on to tell funny stories about the All-Blacks.

While this isn’t an example of Key himself being in the commentary box (John Howard styles), having five days of continual media coverage of a development that was made possible by the government bending the rules is something money simply cannot buy. To have the commentators saying things like “this is the final step in the recovery of Christchurch*” sows that seed in the minds of people who probably haven’t given more than a minute’s thought to Christchurch since 2011. No-one gets to ask the commentators whether they’ve visited New Brighton, or walked through the empty space in the CBD, or talked to a family still dealing with EQC. When the national news media generally only covers one story from Christchurch per bulletin, the World Cup opening has been and will be the good news story coming out of Christchurch for the next week, and will probably overshadow the 4 year anniversary of the February 22nd quake.

Which brings me to the opening match. We will hear worldwide television viewer numbers breathlessly repeated – one billion people around the world! The Oval will look a picture, and the message will be clear: the recovery is over, and Christchurch is ready for business. Which is a great message to put out there – it’s just unfortunately not true. The rebuild is so much more than just one sports ground – but people are already conflating the two:

The government will no doubt be hoping that the launch of the World Cup will convince most people that Christchurch is fine again. The Prime Minister’s message was that “Christchurch is back in business” – business being the highest achievement in the eyes of this government. But “business” doesn’t mean that everyone is adequately housed, or being treated fairly by EQC, insurers or repairers. So by all means enjoy the cricket, and enjoy the Oval. But just don’t think that because 22 men are running around on some nicely coiffured grass that the Recovery is by any means over.

* Sky’s commentators literally have no idea what they are talking about. When the drone camera pointed out east to show the old Lancaster Park, Craig Cumming said “I had no idea that was still there”.

Remember how when the Hagley Oval development was given the go ahead, very strict conditions were placed on it? Well, surprise surprise, they’re already trying to get these restrictions changed:

CWC (Cricket World Cup) has applied for a certificate of compliance to change the amount of days the temporary facilities need to be up for during the 2015 tournament. CWC wants to have the temporary infrastructure up for 46 days from January 19 to March 5.

The Environment Court decision allows for installation between one and three days before each fixture, depending on the type of structure, and a one- to three-day pack-down after each event.

So, under the current regulations, they have between 1 and 3 days to install before each of the 4 fixtures (3 games + opening ceremony), and the same after, for each match that is being held at the oval. That would be a minimum of 8 days, a maximum of 24 days. CWC are applying for 46 days. I’m not usually a fan of the “slippery slope”-type argument, but this seems to be a pretty good example of it in action. The Cricket World Cup is just the thin end of the wedge – now these guys have jammed their wedge in the door, they’re trying to pry it off completely.

Canterbury Cricket’s dodgy deal to take money ear-marked for people suffering from the quakes has gone down about as well as might have been expected.

Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network spokesman Mike Coleman said while he had not been opposed to the construction of the new pavilion, the donation was “absolutely outrageous”. “There’s no way that they can argue that this has anything to do with earthquake recovery,” he said.

“That money was given . . . to go towards those who are seriously affected and trying to recover.”

Given their obsession with putting this ground onto public land, and their desire to do whatever it takes to get it done – including tapping a charity which raised funds to alleviate people’s suffering in the immediate period after the quakes – one has to wonder whether the people at Canterbury Cricket have any morals at all.

I’ve been a bit busy – more on that later – but one story that I didn’t manage to cover to last week was picked up by Steven Cowan.

Many people who donated to the Canterbury Earthquake Appeal were under the impression that the money would be used to assist people in need. They probably didn’t think that $3 million of that money would be given to Canterbury Cricket to fund the construction of its ‘international’ cricket venue.

If it isn’t bad enough that Canterbury Cricket has been allowed to swipe some of the publicly-owned Hagley Park for its new ‘international’ cricket pavilion, it has now been given a $3 million worth of free money to help build the pavilion. That money has come from the Canterbury Earthquake Appeal Trust. The money will be used to assist Canterbury Cricket exploit public land for its own profit.

So not only will Canterbury Cricket be privatizing public land, they are using money that was donated to the Earthquake Recover Trust in the immediate aftermath of the quakes to help people in need to facilitate it. To summarize; money that people donated in response to a human disaster is now being used to help a private enterprise facilitate the transfer of public land into private hands. Kia kaha everybody.

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After all the bluster and opposition in the last few months, it ended up almost being a non-event. The council voted unanimously for full restoration of the Town Hall*, which is great. I didn’t make it to the Council for the decision, but caught up with the team who were arguing for retention, including Dr Jessica Halliday, Barnaby Bennett, and the Town Hall architects, Sir Miles Warren and Maurice Mahoney, afterwards. It’s remarkable that these two men are still around, and sad that they have had to go to council to save one of their finest buildings.  In the brief time I was there with them, it was clear that Sir Miles is still as sharp as a tack, and I think the city could do much worse than having him more involved in the rebuild. There was some discussion around the Cathedral, which may be the next fight. It was also heartening to see Labour Deputy and leadership contender Grant Robertson supporting the decision, which follows an announcement in July which would suggest that some thought is finally being given to the heritage portfolio/

Back at the council this afternoon, the Hagley Oval proposal was given the go ahead, with only 3 councillors voting in opposition. The council gave Canterbury Cricket a lease, and provided $1 million for some of the developments. It does beg the question as to where the remaining $19 million is going to come from, especially given that – as I blogged about yesterday – Canterbury Cricket has *literally* no money.

One of the funnier things about today’s proceedings was when Jamie Gough argued that we needed to defer the decision till next March, to give him more time to read the reports. The council first voted on this last year, in November. It’s his job to be prepared for any vote – and yet he wanted it put off another 6 months. That didn’t fly – but when the decision on Hagley Park came up, he didn’t make the same argument, despite the Environment Court decision only having come out at the start of last week. But apparently it was more than enough time for Gough to get his head around that controversial decision.

*Tim Carter didn’t cast a vote

The Press reports that the court case fought by Canterbury Cricket has left them with virtually no money in the bank. Shock. Horror. 

Starting the past financial year, Canterbury Cricket had $505, 245 in cash assets but the cost of arguing its case in the Environment Court and associated legal expenses has reduced the association’s reserves to nearly zero.

So they took their case to court, and won. Now they have no money to contribute to the project that they want built, so they will go cap in hand to the council and ask the ratepayer for the $20 million. What a rort.

Martin Meehan and the Hands off Hagley group have decided not to gently. He says that he has a legal opinion which states the decision about leasing the land in Hagley Park should go to an independent body – which is something similar to what I’ve argued about the limitations of the Environment Court’s decision. There was also this: 

Today he also released a council-commissioned independent report from June 2008 that identified four sites for an international cricket ground with QEII and Canterbury Park rating higher than Hagley Park. Meehan claims the report was withheld from elected members so when they allocated funds to developing Hagley Oval in 2009, and again in 2012, they were doing so without all the relevant information.

So the council commissioned a report, which it then hid from councillors. Surely this would be considered relevant? Also, why have Canterbury Cricket gone with the third-best option? What was wrong with the other two? I haven’t seen the report, but hopefully it will be made available, so that we can be more informed on why CC ignored the recommendations of this report.

The fight over Hagley Oval continues in the letters ages if the Press – though the rest if the media would like you to think that it’s all over. An interesting letter points out the costs of the development – and the tenuous state of the cricket lobby’s finances. The pavilion and the light towers are each set to cost $8 million, plus $1.65m for the embankment. If you allow for cost overflows, maybe some things that haven’t been factored in as yet (fence to keep non-paying citizens out?) I think assuming a $20m price tag is reasonable.

The Canterbury Cricket Association and the Canterbury Cricket Trust have less than $500,000 between them.

While many in the media and supporters of the oval think that opponents lost because of the environment court decision, again, I would stress that this is an aspect which Judge Borthwick had no remit to consider. Asking where the money for construction is coming from – and then to see a budget for running costs – isn’t needless opposition. It’s civic responsibility.

The Press editorial today is about what good news the Hagley Oval decision is for everyone. I dunno whether it’s written by the sports team again, but whatever.

In a nuanced and carefully balanced decision, Judge Jane Borthwick and two commissioners of the Environment Court have produced a result that removes any reasoned opposition to Canterbury Cricket’s proposal to develop Hagley Oval.

I take issue with the idea that this “removes any reasoned opposition”. This was a decision in the environmental court, about the potential environmental impacts of it. I can still object to this for a number of reasons that weren’t considered by the Environment Court. One would be principle – that public land should not be given over to private interests. I don’t think that Judge Borthwick was asked to consider this – that is left up to the council. The court was not asked to evaluate the economic plan for this development either.

I realise that objecting to something on principle seems to quite foreign to our sports media, but I don’t consider the environment court permitting this to go ahead with certain conditions to be a removal of all reasoned opposition. For the Press to use this in the opening line of their editorial shows that they’ve either thrown their lot in with Canterbury Cricket, or that “principle” is a somewhat foreign concept to them too. The decision is not actually done yet – it will have to be approved by council. I’d like to think that the Press could try and maintain some semblance of balance in presenting the facts.

As the title says, just a few quick thoughts on this. I’ve scribbled some stuff down on paper, and ruminated over the whole thing while I couldn’t sleep last night, but don’t have the time to do a full blog on this right now. However …

I asked the Press reporter Rachel Young, who was first with the story yesterday, about the meaning of “major fixture”. This is the most serious of the limitations which the environment court placed on the project. Canterbury Cricket asked for 20 major fixture days, but we’re only given 13. Rachel responded to my tweet to say that a “major fixture” is any match with more than 2,000 spectators. That means that they are only allowed to have more than 2,000 people on 13 days per year, and only more than 12,000 for two days in every 3 years.

I’m going to make some assumptions here, and they could be wrong, but just go with it for a bit. Let’s assume New Zealand gets two international tours. For augments sake, Sri Lanka and Australia. The first is 3 test / 5 ODI / 2 T20, and the second is 3 test / 3 ODI / 3 T20. Christchurch gets Sri Lanka for a test and an ODI, and Australia for an ODI and a T20 later in the summer. That’s 8 days of the 13 “major fixture” days taken up right there.

That leaves 5 “major fixture” days for the Canterbury Wizards* domestic season, which if it stays in the same format as last year, consists of 10 first-class (4 day), 10 one-dayers, 10 T20 (assuming that Canterbury remain awful at cricket and don’t make any finals). Half of those games are at home, which means probably around 10 home one-dayer and T20 games. 5 of them could be at Hagley, where as the other 5 could be at Rangiora or Lincoln (which Canterbury Cricket argued we’re not good enough – one of the reasons why they “need” Hagley Oval).

In the last paragraph, I didn’t include the four-day games, as I think it is safe to assume that they are unlikely to attract more than 2,000 people. However, they would end up in a somewhat farcical situation where they would have to limit entry to the ground for these games, lest they go over the 2,000 person limit. It’s not inconceivable that they might get more than a few thousand people on a sunny Saturday afternoon who’d want to wander down to the park and see what’s going on – would they turn them away, or would they let them in and risk being found in breech of their resource consent? Bringing cricket back into the city was meant to turn around falling crowds, so getting 2,000 people, when we have ~500,000 people within an hour of town (0.4%) isn’t out of the question. 

Part of the reason for this development was to grow or rebuild cricket in Canterbury. Seems somewhat ironic that if they succeeded in doing that with Hagley Oval, they would be unable to enjoy that success.

 

* I don’t mean to ignore the Canterbury Magicians, but it seems that everyone else has, but with only precious few days up for use, it’s unlikely that women’s cricket would get a look in