DCC approves $1m for artificial turf

17 May 2017

Dunedin is set to get two artificial turf sports fields at Logan Park late this year or early next, after a proposal set to cost the city $1 million won unanimous approval yesterday.

The move has delighted Football South, which had asked for the money to be provided urgently to attract available funding from Fifa.

The Dunedin City Council annual plan deliberations meeting supported the proposal despite concerns from Cr Aaron Hawkins there had been no official public submissions this year, and others had been discouraged from suggesting new projects until next year's long-term plan.

Football South asked the council earlier this month for $1 million of funding this year for the fields it says could attract major national football tournaments to Dunedin.

The organisation said urgency was needed to make sure it could attract $425,000 from Fifa. After that, it could go to funding bodies confident the rest of the $3 million the project would cost could be raised.

The proposal is for two all-weather artificial sports fields. The new pitches would be built on fields bordered by Union St East and Logan Park Dr.

Intended as a multi-use facility, it would include one field with football markings, one with both football and rugby, and an artificial cricket wicket in the middle.

It could also be used for recreation by the general public. At the meeting, Mayor Dave Cull moved the council include the money in its budget. He said the benefits of all-weather turfs had been clear for some time.

The project was ''effectively cost-neutral'', as grass fields would be used less, and income from using the turf would cover interest costs.

The council heard proposed costs for hiring the fields were $70 at peak times and $50 off-peak, with half-field options available.

Mr Cull said it came as a surprise to Football South and council staff when Fifa put a timeline on the funding. ''We are in a position where we have to make a call.''

Cr Conrad Stedman said the project would add vibrancy to the city and provide facilities for children, while Cr Andrew Whiley said the need for artificial turf had been debated annually since he had been a councillor.

He said sporting participation would ''dramatically increase'' once the project was completed. Cr Hawkins also supported the project, but questioned the timeline Fifa had imposed.

He said it was disappointing the council felt it had to provide the funding outside the long-term plan process after others had been discouraged from asking for funding.

The council voted for a resolution supporting the project in principle up to $1 million, with Football South raising the rest of the funds. The ownership of the grounds would transfer to the council once the project was completed.

Consents for the project were to be in place by December 31. Football South chief executive Chris Wright said yesterday he was ''absolutely delighted''. Responding to Cr Hawkins' comments, he said at present the Fifa fund was uncontested.

There were projects expected in the North Island that would compete for funding, meaning Dunedin might only get part of what was on offer if it did not act quickly. ''We know it was a bit last-minute for everyone, and ideally it would have been in 12 months' time.''

Football South would finish consulting stakeholders and apply for funding in the next few months. It is hoped to build in the last quarter of this year, or the first quarter of next year.