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Test Cricket in Christchurch? Why? Why Not!

By David Fox

The battle as to whether or not Hagley Oval will be upgraded for Test and International Cricket is now in the hands of Judge Jane Borthwick.

The “Save Hagley“ group (and oh, this begs the question, save it from what?!) changed its name to “Hands off Hagley”.  The passionate opposition includes Gary Moore who also believes the netball courts should be torn up and the area grassed over!  So many dubious lines of argument were presented and pursued by “the case for the negative” in the Environment Court six weeks ago.

Having been a West Christchurch-University senior player in the 60’s, a Burnside Presidents grade cricketer for 30 years and a passionate supporter of “The Cause”, I decided for my own peace of mind I just had to get involved.  I knew being part of the formal process would be very time consuming but I decided I had to do what I could, to ensure such opposition didn’t achieve their negative objective.

I presented an assessment on Hagley Oval to the City Councillors at their meeting on 6th December 2012, using The Urban Design Protocol, “the 7C’s” and an urban design analysis to do so.  Two of the Councillors told me later that my comments had an impact on their decision making and that was good.  The Council decided to avoid a Commissioners hearing and refer the matter directly to the Environment Court.

My submission to the Councillors was modified and used in my formal submission to the Environment Court on the 10th June.

Major destruction was everywhere, but especially on the softer land on the eastern half of the city and to the sports fields located therein.  The new stadium and turf at Lancaster Park munted and so along with other treasured assets, Christchurch had lost its stadium and sporting venue for international rugby and cricket.

Presentation by David to Christchurch City Council – 6th December 2012:
I am a principal in the firm of Fox & Associates, Surveyors and Land Development Consultants.  A copy of the Press Perspective that I produced on Urban Design issues and which was published by The Press in July 2011 has been provided to you – you will note the comments made about Hagley Oval at that time.

I should state that I am not a member of the Civic Trust nor part of Canterbury Cricket.  I propose to address the Hagley Oval issue from an urban design perspective.

Urban design Protocol:
I was invited to be a member of the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) working party of 12 that produced the Urban Design Protocol in 2004.

The vision statement of the MfE working party was:

“How to make our towns and cities more successful through quality urban design”.

Urban design can be hard to quantify but one of the tools that the MfE working group came up with was the mnemonic – the 7 C’s.  This list of matters gives some structure to an urban design assessment.

This document is invariably used by Councils and the Courts as a basis for the analysis of urban design proposals/urban design concepts.

Surveyors have been heavily involved in the design and development of Christchurch from Captain Thomas in 1848, to the present day.  One of my contributions to the City, of an urban design nature, is the design and development of some 600 sections across the Port Hills including 300 on the Broad Oaks development.

Urban design comments:
Urban design needs to focus on people, on spaces and places.  To help Cities and towns vibrate and remain alive we need to create spaces and places – spaces and places that people want to visit and revisit, again and again.

Those of us involved in urban design have been constrained by the plethora of planning controls and regulations that restrict creative solutions for urban design.

In recent discussions with senior planning staff at different Councils, I was, to my surprise told “urban design issues should dominate your thinking when you are formulating development proposals…………”  I am suggesting that as Councillors you might look at considering Hagley Oval from an urban design perspective and hopefully recognise the urban design and economic benefits that the development of Hagley Oval could bring to the City.

I believe on a spaces and places analysis that the creating Hagley Oval as a Test Cricket ground would be a winner for the City and the CBD.

Very briefly, a Seven C’s analysis of the proposal to create a Test wicket at Hagley Oval:

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  • Context
  • Character
  • Creativity
  • Choice
  • Collaboration
  • Custodianship
  • Connectivity

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Context:  Cricket is part of Hagley Oval and has been played on Hagley Oval for some 150 years.

Character:  Hagley Oval epitomises everything that one could think about if one was designing a venue for cricket – green spaces, English trees and a tranquil setting.

Creativity:  The Botanical Gardens will always be the most special part of the Park but upgrading Hagley Oval would create another special area that would add to the lustre of the Park and result in this part of Hagley becoming one of the most used and valued spaces in the Park.

Choice:  The alternative venues suggested by a number of people are in fact not practicable solutions.

Collaboration:  I think that Canterbury Cricket has tried to work in with the Council and those opposing Hagley Oval.

Custodianship:  Hagley Oval will be open to the public all year round except when cricket is being played.  The grounds will continue to be under the control and care of the Council.

Connectivity:  This is a major factor and a major reason why the development of Hagley Oval as the centre point for cricket in Canterbury will be so successful – centrally located, easily accessible connection to the CBD through the Botanic Gardens.

Comparison with Wellington – The Cake Tin:
Whilst on holiday earlier this year I met a senior NZTA engineer based in Wellington.  This gentleman told me that there were wide ranging views within the Wellington Council and amongst Councillors as to whether or not the Cake Tin should be located at Porirua!

I think that is abundantly clear to everyone that had the Cake Tin been sited at Porirua then Wellington City would have lost the economic activity that the present site brings to the town.  The thousands that attend occasions at the Cake Tin pour into town after the event filling the bars and restaurants.

The same applies to Hagley Oval – the numbers of people supporting and attending cricket occasions on Hagley Oval will be far greater than if Cricket tests were at any other site around the City or its outskirts.

Save Hagley Park – save it from what?
(The Save Hagley Park lobby group are a group of heritage advocates who strongly oppose the development of Hagley Oval as a venue for Test cricket).

The netball courts are a buzz of activity on winter mornings and that is great to see.

The Ellerslie Flower Show brings activity into the Park and the odd circus performs in the park (both charge fees!), I consider that the City should get more benefit from Hagley Park than it does at present – it is not used enough.

I support the Civic Trust and the heritage groups on many things that are important to them, but let’s face it – heritage buildings and heritage issues are dear to many Cantabrians not just those groups.

My concern with some Heritage advocates is that they need to recognise the need to build on our heritage.  There HAVE to be new initiatives that build on our heritage.  The opportunity to upgrade and have international cricket on Hagley Oval is an opportunity that should not be lost.

Hagley Park – a great asset to the City:
There are clearly 1000’s of cricketers, ex-cricketers, kid cricketers and cricket supporters in the City who would love to watch national and international cricket on Hagley Oval.  I have no doubt if Hagley Oval is developed for Test Cricket and becomes the focal point for cricket in Canterbury that thousands of people will actively use or visit the ground on a regular basis.

The development of Hagley Oval will improve the standard of Canterbury cricket and the benefits will flow onto our national team – good for Canterbury, good for the Country.

CERA:
Why did they have Hagley Oval shown in their blue print?  I believe it was because they perceived it would add to the economic strength of the CBD; that it would add to the buzz of the City; that it would create a space and place that people would wish to visit and revisit.

Your worship the Mayor – “you were quoted in the Press last week as having a desire for the University to be linked into the City, the idea being that the energy and vitality of students would add to the buzz of the City.  I believe that the development of Hagley Oval will add life and buzz to the City.  I hope that you support Hagley Oval.  Thank you for the opportunity to speak” (David Fox).

And so off to the Environment Court:
As a passionate supporter of the proposal to develop Hagley Oval for test cricket it was gratifying to have the Mayor state, when summing up, that he wished it to be recorded that he was strongly in favour of Hagley Oval being developed for Test Cricket.

My submission to the Environment Court in June as a formal S274 party, was a modified version of the above.