Wellington bans training on grass sportsfields – winter sports may be delayed

Press Release – Wellington City Council
Pre-season training on grass sportsfields has been restricted in much of the Wellington region – and the continuing drought may affect the start of winter sports in the next fortnight.

Wellington, Hutt and Upper Hutt city councils yesterday agreed that no training will be allowed on any grass sportsfield – with immediate effect. The ban is part of a region-wide bid by councils to maintain grass cover as much as possible for the winter months.

Porirua, Kapiti Coast District and the Wairarapa councils are closely monitoring the situation and considering whether to also apply restrictions, while College Sport Wellington is strongly advising local secondary schools to also make their fields off-limits to pre-season activity.

Wellington City Council Parks, Sports and Recreation Manager Paul Andrews says Regional parks managers and sports organisations met yesterday to discuss options to protect and conserve sportsfields in the lead up to the winter season starting in a fortnight’s time.

He says any training now will have implications for the fields’ availability over the winter. Many fields are dry with not much grass cover following the dry start to autumn and the recent ban on irrigation. We are also conscious of player safety as fields are rock hard.

Restrictions now on pre-season training and, potentially, games ahead will assist with ensuring the fields in the region recover enough in order to survive the winter season ahead. Some dedicated training areas will still be available within the region for pre season use.

Council staff will keep a close watch on grassed sportsfields to make sure the pre-season restrictions are observed. Councils will continue to review the situation on a daily basis.

“While we hope for more rain – and look for alternative ways of getting water on to our fields, they have to be restricted to winter codes now or we run the risk of not completing competition games this season ,” says Mr Andrews.

“The agreement yesterday was that if we use them now, we’ll lose the fields later.”

Parks managers are also considering the possibility of restricted starts to the local club rugby and football seasons – which start on 1 April (Easter Monday) and 6 April respectively.

Mr Andrews says the ban on mains watering means the region’s top sand-based grass surfaces, used for club competition, may be out of action – meaning there will be fewer grounds available at the start of the season. This includes hockey – as a number of artificial fields in the region have to be watered prior to play.

He says a number of Easter Monday rugby games may have to be played on artificial turf. “And, given the rock-hard state of most of our grass pitches, that decision would probably be greeted with enthusiasm by most players.”

We will continue to work closely with Regional Sporting Organisations on options for pre-season training for codes and clubs.

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