Nelson City councillor Tim Skinner, Tasman Rugby CEO Tony Lewis, Tasman United general manager Clive Beaumont and group manager of infrastructure Alec Louverdis. Photo: Andrew Board.

Turf battle at Trafalgar

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Nelson’s largest musical concert and the region’s top football team are hastily arranging new venues after Nelson City Council decided to bring forward its scheduled re-turf at Trafalgar Park in time for next year’s All Blacks game.

Opera in the Park and Tasman United were all booked in for major events at Trafalgar Park early in the New Year but are now looking at alternatives after the council, owners of the park, decided to bring forward a re-turf of the surface by nine months.

The Trafalgar Park pitch was badly damaged during the Tasman Makos and Auckland Mitre 10 Cup game in September, due to heavy rain. It has left the pitch in a poor condition and means that the council couldn’t guarantee the pitch would drain properly in a heavy rain.

So councillors decided to move the re-turf, closing the playing surface for about five months, which has forced some groups to scramble to find a new venue.

Opera in the Park, which attracts thousands of people, will now be held at Saxton Field on the cricket oval in late February.

Tasman United is due to play four games on Trafalgar Park in January and February and the park is the only ground in the region that meets New Zealand Football’s criteria – which means if that can’t play there they will be in breach of their licence.

Football bosses described the decision by council last Wednesday as a “live grenade”.

“We’re hopeful that the council will work with us in good faith and we’ll have a surface to play on, which is the number one criteria for the team,” says Tasman United general manager Clive Beaumont.

The pitch that is likely to get a makeover to bring it up to national league standard is Saxton Field’s number one football pitch. A ground that was also badly cut up during the South Island Masters Games, the same weekend that the Makos rugby game damaged Trafalgar Park.

Tasman United chairman Mark Sheenan says it’s been a tough week trying to “get our ducks in a row” but he is looking on the bright side. “The positive out of this is that we’ll end up with a better football pitch at Saxton Field and Trafalgar Park will be in top condition for next season.”

Group manager of infrastructure Alec Louverdis says there is money in the budget for work at Saxton Field but if the cost is more than what’s in the budget then extra money will need to be found.

“We do have money in our budgets to undertake work at Saxton field. We need to see how much, if anything, above that we need and that’s part of the discussions we’re having.”

Relay for Life is another major community event that was booked in to take place at Trafalgar Park, but the council is allowing that event to continue as long as they don’t go on the playing surface.

Nelson Cancer Society manager Michelle Hunt says the news gave her “some sleepless nights” when it was announced. Initially council suggested that Relay for Life, the society’s major fundraising event, be moved to Saxton Field. However, Michelle wanted it to be central.

“It’s much more accessible and we really want the public to come along.”

So the event, on March 17 next year, has special permission from council. Teams will have to camp at either end of the field, rather than lining the sides of it. There is room for about 120 teams.

It has also been reduced to a 12-hour event rather than through the night.

“We want to bring in more families and schools and with new health and safety rules it makes that a little more difficult with a longer event.”