By TRACEY ROXBURGH
Users of the Queenstown Rec Ground are fuming after construction of a wastewater pumping station’s altered the ground level, turning the western end of the pitch into a paddling pool this week.
That end of the field’s been tied up by a lengthy capital works project — HEB Construction
started work on the new wastewater pumping station last March; by December it was expected to be up to $2.5 million over budget.
Part of the field was out of action all last season and as soon as it was returned to the Wakatipu Rugby Club at the beginning of this year, club stalwart Damien O’Connell says he knew the paddock ‘‘wasn’t up to it’’.
‘‘We talked about ground levels and they said, ‘nah, nah, it’s fine, it’ll drain’, and I’m standing there going, ‘no, it’s not going to, I can tell by where I’m standing’.’’
In a classic case of I-told-you-so, O’Connell was proven right this week when heavy rain turned the Camp Street end — which has traditionally held up reasonably well to precipitation — into a swamp.
The club’s demanding contractors return and fix the field, but O’Connell says there’s a bigger issue to contend with around general maintenance of sports grounds in Queenstown, labelling them ‘‘atrocious’’ .
Last week Mountain Scene reported Queenstown Rovers men’s football team hadn’t been
properly able to train at the Queenstown Events Centre for seven weeks due to surface flooding and drainage issues.
A footy game last Saturday, pegged for a different field at the Events Centre, had to be moved after snow melt caused issues.
This week that field’s largely under water thanks to rain.
O’Connell: ‘‘We’ve gone from having the best fields in, probably, Otago, to some of the worst now.
‘‘I don’t know how they [council] do their budgeting, but if they don’t do their maintenance properly eventually it’s going to cost them money; it’s going to cost an absolute fortune.’’
Of the Rec Ground, councillor Craig Ferguson says he’s ‘‘disappointed’’ to see the amount of surface flooding after the wastewater project, expecting the field to be improved as a result, but instead it’s been degraded.
‘‘I’ve had my nose rubbed in that grass and mud many years ago, quite often, but I’ve never seen it like that before.
‘‘I’m no engineer, but I would’ve thought we would’ve come back with something way superior than what we started with in terms of that end of the rugby ground [being] looked after.’’
He reiterates comments he made at a recent council meeting around the long-term plan,
saying the council needs to ‘‘be doing the stuff that needs to be done’’.
‘‘I know the rugby club will be frustrated because they’ve had to sit there, year after year, they’ve put their case forward, numerous times, around their concerns about the drainage there, and it hasn’t really been acknowledged.
‘‘You’ve only got to read some of the recent comments in your paper around football and what’s happening out at the Events Centre — there are organisations in our community who feel they’re not being heard, but, obviously, there’s only so much money and it’s always a battle to get it spread around.’’
Council’s sport and rec boss Simon Battrick couldn’t be reached for comment.