18 Apr 2024

Top flight cricket could be pulling up stumps at Pukekura Park

8:50 am on 18 April 2024
Pukekura Park in New Plymouth

Top flight matches have been held at Pukekura Park since the 1950s. File photo. Photo: Photosport

Top flight cricket at New Plymouth's Pukekura Park - a ground once described by cricketing bible Wisden as among the six best venues in the world - could be about to be hit for six.

As part of the council's long-term plan, ratepayers are being asked whether to fork out $16.3 million to replace the earthquake-prone Bellringer Pavilion to meet the requirements of top-level players - or risk stumps being called on the venue.

Cricket has been played at Pukekura Park since the 1890s, with top flight matches held since the 1950s and the park hosting a men's World Cup match in 1992.

Famed for its steep terraces, short boundaries and idyllic bush-setting, it got the Wisden accolade in 2007 and UK newspaper The Telegraph included it in a list of the 14 most beautiful cricket grounds in the world a decade later.

But New Zealand Cricket appealed against the dilapidated conditions of the Bellringer Pavilion in 2022.

Taranaki Cricket general manager Ryan Evans.

Taranaki Cricket general manager Ryan Evans. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Taranaki Cricket general manager Ryan Evans said there was lengthy list of gripes about the facility, which was built in 1924.

"The changing rooms are too small. They are not really fit for purpose for modern professional sport.

"And another factor is around some of the associated facilities like media facilities, match officials facilities, dining facilities, that kind of thing. They're just not really where they need to be for modern professional sport."

For the recently completed season, temporary container-style changing rooms had been used for the six domestic white ball T20 and 50 over matches at the venue.

Evans said Pukekura Park without top level cricket did not bear thinking about.

"A day on the terraces at Puke Park has been something I've enjoyed since childhood and I think that would be the case for many thousands of Taranaki people.

"One of the things that stands out form me is just how much people love this ground as a place to play as place to watch. It's a special place with special feelings."

Evans believed Pukekura Park would be a perfect venue for women's internationals, but even he baulked at the cost of what he described as a "gold-plated" redevelopment.

"Even within the Taranaki cricket community it would be fair to say there have been some eyebrows raised over the cost. Taranaki Cricket would definitely be open exploring what some of the other options might look like, but they haven't been put to us as yet."

That would be music to the ears of councillor Gordon Brown.

"One item that's caught everyone's attention (in the long-term plan consultation document) I think is the shifting of the Bellringer Pavilion. That get's pulled down at Pukekura Park - one of the best six cricket grounds in the world - but a price tag of $16.3 million is unacceptable."

He wanted the council to go back to the drawing board.

"Well personally, I want the pavilion to be rebuilt so we can once again host top cricket, but there's a price tag for everything and that's one where we've got to dive deeper in and see what savings can be made."

Results of a preliminary council survey of 300 residents revealed they were split on the Bellringer Pavilion proposal - 41 percent in favour of the $16 million rebuild while 36 percent want a basic $1 million repair that would put at risk top flight cricket at the venue.

An Artist's impression of the proposed new $16.3m pavilion at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth.

An Artist's impression of the proposed new $16.3m pavilion at Pukekura Park in New Plymouth. Photo: Supplied

Park visitors spoken to by RNZ fell into both camps.

Hunter was in favour of the rebuild.

"I've always considered cricket an important part of tourism here for New Plymouth and if the pavilion is earthquake-prone then it definitely needs to be replaced."

But Greg reckoned now was not the time.

"I think it's too much at the moment. I think too many people are hurting economically with their rates and their mortgages etc. It would be nice to have, but at the moment I don't think we can afford it."

Kay was not a fan either.

"What's wrong with the way it is now? Fix that building up there already, It's there, it's heritage. Leave it."

Phil reckoned council focus should be elsewhere.

"Well, we don't have many first-class matches here anyway. The council should be concentrating on our water and sewerage. Forget about all these fancy buildings."

Mitch was on the same page.

"Spend it on fixing this thing up. We don't need any more monuments. People who have the ability to spend this money tend to runaway with themselves."

Other options in the LTP consultation document included demolishing the pavilion and not replacing it or delaying work on the building.

Public consultation on the long-term plan closes on Friday.

Taranaki Cricket general manager Ryan Evans with the Bellringer Pavilion in the background

Taranaki Cricket general manager Ryan Evans with the Bellringer Pavilion in the background Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin