Why We Oppose An Artificial Pitch

There are 3 reasons why we oppose the Council’s plan to build an artificial pitch at Fowlds Park:

  1. there are 2 better alternatives to an artificial pitch
  2. it would destroy the beautiful Fowld Park environment
  3. the Council’s plan does not comply with the special protections in this Reserve or with the Resource Management Act.

There are 2 better alternatives to an artificial pitch

A $2,000,000 plus artificial pitch is completely unnecessary in Fowlds Park, or in any of Auckland’s public parks, because there are 2 better alternatives that, unlike artificial pitches, have no adverse effects on the environment, comply with the Resource Management Act, and are much less expensive.

Auckland Council claims that the artificial pitch, which accommodates around 40 hours of sport per week, is necessary to help address a shortfall of sportsfields, and estimates that the current demand in Auckland is 6,771 hours per week.* But Auckland’s fields already supply 8,769 hours per week*, a surplus of 1,998 hours per week.  Improved reliability, and any increase in capacity needed in the future, can be provided by using two solutions to improve grass fields:

  • by sand carpeting the many poorly draining soil fields at a cost of around $250,000 per field  (training lights, if needed, are an additional $100,000 per field).  If this was adopted across all available sports fields in Auckland, this option would accommodate around 20 hours of sport per field per week, a total of at least 13,500 hours of sport per week on Auckland’s 676 fields*.
  • by using fibre reinforced grass on the fields at a cost of around $550,000 per field (training lights, if needed, are an additional $100,000 per field).  If this was adopted across all available sports fields in Auckland, this option would accommodate up to 40 hours of sport per field per week, at least 24,000 hours of sport per week on Auckland’s 676 fields*.  Fibre reinforcing, also known as Xtragrass, is a Dutch technology which enhances natural grass with artificial fibres. Xtragrass fields are common in Europe and are in use in Australia and the United States.  Xtragrass has been used in Auckland with great success to reinforce soccer goal mouths.  Council has decided to install Xtragrass on the whole field at Nixon Park, Kingsland, within the next 12 months.

*Data taken from the Auckland Council’s Longdill 2014 report, pages 1 and 23. (left hand side of pages 2 and 13 on this version Appendix_D_Longdill2014 )

Use of these two Auckland Council approved options would more than meet the current and future demand for sports fields, but with none of the adverse environmental effects of artificial pitches.  Sand carpet and Xtragrass fields can have their required 3 – 4 week renovation carried out over the Christmas / New Year holiday period when summer sport is in recess.

In advocating the change from artificial grass to Xtragrass at Nixon Park to the Albert-Eden Local Board in late 2014 Auckland Council made the following statements:

“It (Xtragrass at Nixon Park) will also deliver a number of other benefits that include: no requirement to fence the sportsfield area; replicating the feel, look and playing characteristics of a natural soil field; the continued multi-use of the existing sportsfield area.

“Of particular importance in this instance is that there will be a significant gain for sport at Nixon Park (football or rugby, touch and lacrosse) without negative impact on the landscape or passive recreation in the park. No fencing around the fields would be required and when the fields are not being used for formal sport they can be enjoyed by visitors pursuing more passive pastimes.”

The benefits of Xtragrass which the Auckland Council is bringing to Nixon Park, Gribblehirst Park and Phyllis Reserve could also be brought to Fowlds Park.

Council official policy is that artificial fields will only be considered if “improvements to grass fields” cannot supply demand. As is clear from the above data, improvements to grass fields can supply Auckland’s demand for sports fields for the foreseeable future.

What’s more, improvements to grass fields, rather than replacing them with artificial pitches, would also reduce the field closure rate in the North, West and Central sectors of Auckland from the current 18% to within Council’s target range of less than 10%.

We fully support the active use of the sportsfields in the park.

An artificial pitch would destroy the beautiful Fowld Park environment

  • An artificial pitch in Fowlds Park would deprive Aucklanders of 10,000 square metres of open space. For an idea of how the park will change, see the photos of Michales Avenue, another park in Auckland, before and after an artificial pitch was constructed
  • it would involve the unnecessary cutting down of many mature native trees including many 30 year old pohutukawa. See detail of which trees the Council plans to fell here
  • it would turn the open space parkland into a commercial complex
  • it would provide limited community access and greatly reduce the amenity values of the park due to its fencing, paving, caging and industrial lighting rigs
  • the use of crumb rubber as the artificial surface has created concerns in many countries about toxicity, disease, odour, heat retention, infection and injury
  • it would require the destruction of the long, gently sloping grass bank which is such an outstanding and highly used feature of the park and replacing it with an unsightly twelve feet tall retaining wall
  • it would require the construction of 400 plus metres of 2.5 metre wide, straight concrete paths.  That’s over 1000 square metres, over a quarter acre of concrete paving, all in straight lines.  The designer of Fowlds Park, Fred Tcshopps wrote of his 1930 design “The main features of the Park … (are) connected with winding paths and roads which afford at each bend and turn different treatment and new vista.  Thus a never tiring array of landscape picture meet the eye.” He also specified “soft irregular curves” and to “AVOID STRAIGHT LINES” which of course never appear in nature.  TschoppDesignPhilosophy.    Completely contrary to the philosophy underlying the park’s design, the proposed artificial pitch would result in a profusion of industrial straight lines.

The Council’s plan does not comply with the Resource Management Act (RMA), the park’s Management Plan or the District Plan.

Section 7 of the RMA requires the Council, in the management, use or development of Fowlds Park, to “pay particular regard” to the “maintenance and enhancement” of the “amenity values” of the park. These amenity values are defined by the RMA as features of Fowlds Park which “contribute to people’s appreciation” of the park’s pleasantness, aesthetic coherence, cultural attributes and recreational attributes.

The Council’s current plans for Fowlds Park would:

  • destroy its aesthetic coherence
  • adversely effect, to a very great extent, the park’s pleasantness, cultural attributes and recreational attributes
  • have very significant adverse effects on the environment of, and surrounding, Fowlds Park.

Section 5 of the RMA requires Council, in its management, use or development of natural resources such as Fowlds Park, to only manage, use or develop while “avoiding…any adverse effects…on the environment.”

Areas of non compliance or inconsistency with the  Fowlds Park Management Plan HL and DistrictPlan are highlighted.

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