Hope for Saxton Oval


A back-down from organisers of the Cricket World Cup, by allowing the Auckland Nines event to go ahead, has locals hopeful there will be a similar back-down at Saxton Oval.

Former Nelson City councillor Derek Shaw is a member of Athletics Nelson, and says he is “hopeful” track and field will be in action at Saxton Oval during the Cricket World Cup.

As part of its contract with Nelson City Council, Cricket World Cup has exclusive use of the athletics track from January 26 until March 15 – the peak of the track and field season – despite all the games being held next door.

The exclusivity of the cricket oval, athletics track, pavilion and in-field of the track, runs from 21 days prior to the first match until ten days after the last one.

But an exemption, to allow the NRL Nines to be held at Auckland’s Eden Park for three days during their same exclusivity period, has given Derek some hope that Athletics Nelson can also reach an agreement with world cup organisers. “People have become more optimistic that Cricket World Cup will start focusing on some of the smaller details and realize they don’t need all of that exclusivity time. That news from Auckland gives us some further encouragement that there’s scope for a compromise.”

Derek, one of three Athletics Nelson representatives to be involved in formal discussions with Nelson City Council, says the ideal solution would be a compromise of two or three days either side of the matches on February 16, February 19 and March 5, and use of the timing room for “one or two significant meets”. “That would enable a lot of athletics to still continue, the kids stuff right through to the senior Twilight Series meets and some of the bigger meets as well,” he says. “Track and field athletes definitely need access to the facilities there.”

It’s still unclear what the athletics track will be used for during the Cricket World Cup, although, during the Black Caps versus West Indies One Day International, the inside was used as a children’s entertainment area and the surrounds were used by food vendors.

The exclusivity period would have huge disruptions for the senior athletes, who would be training for the New Zealand Track and Field Championship, including Commonwealth Games 1500m finalist Julian Matthews who returned home to train in the lead up to the event in summer.

And Derek says there was some confusion from the two major junior clubs – Richmond Athletics and Athletics Nelson – as to how they would work out a membership fee when the second half of the season might not even happen.

A representative from Cricket World Cup is due in Nelson before the end of the month, but Derek was unsure whether Athletics Nelson will be involved in discussions with him. “We need to talk to council about that, whether we are involved in those discussions directly, but I’m not sure. We’ve certainly offered to help and have made submissions to council, which is part of what they’ll be presenting to Cricket World Cup.”