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Councillor Morrison and the Basin Reserve

bench

by Alana Bowman
John Morrison has been a trustee of the Basin Reserve Trust since it was established in 2005 “to manage and administer the Basin Reserve on behalf of the Wellington City Council”. There are four trustees, but he is the elected councillor, representing the interests of the people of Wellington. How well has he done?

Walking around the Basin, or reading reports to the council from the Trust, can give an idea about his ability to manage one of the city’s most valuable and historic assets. Past performance could be an indicator of his potential for managing the assets and finances of the City of Wellington.

When people talk about the Basin Reserve – if at all – they usually describe it as a wasted space, under-used by cricket and other sports codes and by public or private events.

The Trust’s protection of the environment of the Basin Reserve has been less than successful. Although John Morrison vowed on Wellington.Scoop (in February 2010) that he wouldn’t support the motorway flyover, he has now voted three times to support it – in exchange for a promised ‘pavilion’ reserved for the use of officials and players and those few admitted into the area designated as “lounges”.

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The 2006 Basin Reserve Business plan included two corporate boxes, one at the northern and one at the southern end of the Basin. Apparently the Transport Agency is to pay for the one at the northern end.

The Transport Agency’s flyover plans include a diagram showing the land designation into the Basin Reserve = not only for the area required for the pavilion, but also extending far into the grass bank loved by cricket fans and removing at least eight historic pohutakawa trees. The land will be the Transport Agency’s to keep after construction of the pavilion and the flyover, if it decides to keep it. John Morrison’s press statements proudly describing negotiations for the pavilion omit mention of this loss of Basin land.

His protection of the interests of cricket fans seems limited to benefiting a few, and not the many who are now denied a place to sit and view a match because Trustees have failed to come up with a plan for the Museum Stand, which was closed last year and declared to be unsafe because of earthquake hazards.

Morrison has repeatedly warned that the loss of the Museum Stand would put the Basin at risk of losing its ability to host first class cricket and the 2015 World Cup. The Cup was included as a scheduled tour in the Basin’s Statement of Intent filed with the Wellington City Council a few months ago. Morrison is silent now that no World Cup matches have been chosen for the Basin – all matches are now going to the Westpac Stadium. (Morrison is also a Stadium trustee.)

The 2012/13 Statement of Intent anticipated that improvements to the Basin for the World Cup would have provided “a legacy asset for the city.”

The promised international tour has lost one team, Sri Lanka, and the Trust promises only 47 event days this year.

The Trustees are responsible for managing the Basin Reserve as well as its facilities – it’s a stunning sports ground as well as a potential venue for entertainment. Have Morrison and his fellow Trustees managed this asset to provide a positive cash flow? Apparently not. Each year since the Trust was established, the city council has subsidised its operations. Not as much as it does for Zealandia, but it is a significant amount each year above the gate receipts, venue rental, hospitality charges, and other income sources.

The Trust loses money each year, except when the council bumps up its usual $180,000 annual grant ($550,000 in 2008 and $255,000 last year). Finding the financial data is difficult, though. Although the Wellington City Council 2011/12 Annual Report for CCOs provided Westpac Stadium’s revenue from events as well as the number of events, the Basin Trust provided only the number of events (28). The new CEO should insist on more complete information in future.

Even with a council contribution of $355,000, the Basin Reserve Trust anticipates a deficit of $78,000, according to the 2013/14 Statement of Intent. No one from the Trust appeared before the council’s CCO performance committee to report on either the finances or the management of the Basin Reserve.

The Basin is the oldest cricket ground in New Zealand, praised by cricketers and fans, and loved as well. The cost of maintaining such a national asset can be justified by its significance, beauty, and place in history. Last year Council provided additional money to improve drainage. The grounds are beautiful. But the rest of the place is a mess.

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The Museum Stand is shabby and neglected – broken windows, unpainted and rotting. No plans have been announced to make it safe, or even paint it or fix the broken windows. Radio New Zealand has reported that the council has allocated $50,000 for its destruction, not repair.

cottage

The Groundsman’s Cottage, built in 1890, is left rotting as well. Pickets are broken and unpainted. Stairs and bleachers also need paint and repairs. Even the hosting responsibility for the England test match last year produced only a coat of paint around a few of the stands the day before the match began.

The toilet blocks are disgusting.

Isn’t the named sponsor, Hawkins, a construction company? Couldn’t John Morrison negotiate an in-kind contribution to restore or renovate the worn and rotting structures?

Good management would have looked everywhere for grant funding, and organised an army of volunteers from fans and the local community. Clubs playing there could be required to donate time to clean and paint the facilities and stands. Instead the management plan appears to be limited to relying on the city council for subsidies and then asking for more as additional needs occur.

When Zealandia proved itself incapable of providing a sound fiscal management plan, the council demanded a change in management. But Morrison remains, after seven years as a trustee. And now he wants a promotion to mayor.

While bragging about having lured a low-wage call centre to Wellington, and finding one positive financial outcome for his Sports Portfolio through the AFL ANZAC game – although half of his promised attendance numbers turned up – Morrison is quiet about the poor management of the Basin Reserve. And so he should be.

Alana Bowman is a Wellington resident who is wildly keen about cricket.

33 comments:

  1. Elaine Hampton, President MVRA, 2. October 2013, 11:41

    The Basin Reserve Cricket Ground is an ‘Iconic’ place in Wellington. From above it is a pivotal feature of the city, with the green space, roads travelling towards and away, with the Carillon in sight. Noted as being one of the ten iconic cricket grounds in the world and soon to be featured in an English 2014 Calendar, its lack of maintenance is a disgrace. John Morrison cannot say ‘NZTA pavilion has saved the Basin because upgraded changing rooms will now be provided to appease the international organisers’. The Vance Stand is abysmal but has huge room for potential renovation. The male toilets are less than hygenic. The Museum Stand needs earthquake strengthening, and is as important as the Town Hall.
    John Morrison has organised a land grab by NZTA and lost the city a major feature. How much has his Trusteeship of the Stadium contributed to this? A complete failure of his responsibility to the Basin and to Wellington citizens.

     
  2. Disgusted, 2. October 2013, 13:06

    Alana isn’t only a resident and “wildly keen about cricket”, she’s also a spokeswoman for the Save the Basin organisation. This organisation was conjured up in order to oppose a road. If they were actually interested in saving the Basin, they’d be crowing about state of the art facilities bringing the Basin up to international standards and ensuring its future as an international test cricket venue. The people you’re talking to clearly haven’t been to a summer test match either, Alana, or they’d know that the stadium simply can’t compete against the bank at the Basin on a sunny day.

     
  3. Elaine Hampton, 2. October 2013, 14:11

    Actually ‘Disgusted’
    Alana Bowman is a resident and a member of Cricket Wellington, attending every game she can. Alana thinks it ‘is the beautiful game’.
    Save the Basin want to ‘Stop the Flyover’ and thereby ‘Save the Basin’

     
  4. Tim Jones, 2. October 2013, 14:13

    I’m also a member of Cricket Wellington, a member of Save the Basin, and have been attending tests at the Basin since 1991 – and Disgusted’s statement about “state of the art facilities” is rubbish. While the Museum Stand is left to fall into neglect by the ground authorities, the proposed so-called “state of the art facility” is little more than a glorified wall, designed to block the view of the flyover from the pitch – but not from outfield players or spectators.

    John Morrison is trying to sell Wellington a pig in a poke. Perhaps the fact that his daughter is a member of Cricket Wellington’s Board may have influenced Cricket Wellington to support him. I suggest that the rest of us don’t fall into the same trap.

     
  5. Frank Buddingh, 2. October 2013, 14:42

    There is only one decent thing to do: fire Morrison. A Chairman who promises one thing and then does another thing cannot have the interests of the Basin Reserve at heart.
    It is an appalling plan to overshadow the reserve with a highway: a historic reserve that is famous well outside the boundaries of New Zealand.
    Maybe the NZHPT should re-write their historic classifications incorporating rulings about immediate surroundings that can impair the historic setting and importance.

     
  6. Simon Rolleston, 2. October 2013, 14:48

    Professional sport is only set up for the martini drinking , well-monied clique ; the yobs are much better watching it at home on T.V. these days. What these ‘winners’ can’t seem to understand though is the disgust ordinary people feel when much loved public areas-such as Hagley Park in ChCh or the Basin Reserve in the Capital are pinched for the exclusive use of a few,

     
  7. Pollyanna, 2. October 2013, 15:08

    It is not a road Disgusted – it is an ugly flyover renamed a “bridge” and though many still think it is a new road to the airport it is in fact coming from the Eastern suburbs and will end up in the queue at Karo Drive.
    I have today been to Miramar, admittedly school holidays, but no delay going my preferred route along the waterfront and down Kent Terrace returning around the Basin and back along Cambridge, just following the green lights. However, I did notice on my return journey the disgusting state of the Museum Stand and the Groundsman’s Cottage (obviously one historic building that Cr Morrison is not concerned about}

    The Basin has been a venue for so many other activities beside cricket (which I used to play) and it would be wonderful to see it return to a venue for soccer, hockey, band competitions, and concerts to name just a few of the past events which would see the crowds return to our iconic playground.

    As many people have pointed out, these flyover monstrosities have been pulled down in so many big cities around the world.

     
  8. Greg, 2. October 2013, 15:34

    Disgusted: Does her affiliation with a protest group change the validity of her statements about the state of the Basin facilities or the management by Cr Morrison? As someone who’s not affiliated with Save the Basin, I’ve been wondering much the same – whether Morrison’s position on the trust has been beneficial to the Basin Reserve as a sports facility and as a public place.

     
  9. Reggie, 2. October 2013, 15:52

    There are so many inaccurate and ill-informed comments in this article, it’s hard to know where to start. Staggering really, but also symptomatic of the desperation of people opposed to any form of progress and development.

     
  10. R Teppett, 2. October 2013, 15:56

    Something doesn’t smell right when Cricket Wellington gets all political and endorses John Morrison as a mayoral candidate when it is a trustee for the city funded Basin Reserve Trust which reports directly to WCC.

     
  11. Alana, 2. October 2013, 16:00

    Actually, Disgusted, it was being a wild keen cricket fan which led me to join Save the Basin. I joined the others concerned about the future of the Basin after sitting on the bank nearly 5 years ago and becoming angry after another fan described the proposed flyover in very colourful language. He was a visitor from Christchurch outraged that Wellington would allow New Zealand’s heritage cricket ground to be so badly damaged. I’d be very happy to support, and contribute to, improvements in the grounds and facilities, but not as part of this bad deal.

     
  12. Margot Boock, 2. October 2013, 17:42

    One pavilion does not maketh the ground. The Basin willl lose its charm and its special atmosphere as one of the world’s oldest test cricket grounds if this concrete monstrosity goes ahead. I’m saying this as someone who has spent many a sunny day under the pohutakawas at the Basin. I don’t want to see it or any of the historic trees destroyed by this backward plan. I am also appalled by Cricket Wellington poking their nose into local body politics. They have no political role whatsoever. With Morrison’s daughter on the board can we now add nepotism to the bullying emails, plagiarism and sexist behaviour he’s displayed thus far?

     
  13. Sridhar Ekambaram, 2. October 2013, 17:45

    John Morrison is the only mayoral candidate who keeps flip flopping in his policies. He just can’t be trusted as a councilor, leave alone as a mayor.

     
  14. Cynical, 2. October 2013, 19:55

    Sridhar Ekambaram, have you perhaps heard of Celia Wade-Brown? She is the queen of flip-flops… “I will support the flyover”, “I won’t support the flyover”, “Light Rail”, “BRT”, “Light Rail”, etc.
    Wellington has gone backwards over the past three years, we need a change of mayor and council to do this… and why aren’t you declaring in your posts that you are running for council?

     
  15. Hel, 2. October 2013, 21:10

    The state of the Basin is a disgrace and the Council needs to commit the funds to maintain this iconic ground to a proper standard. Unfortunately the groundsman’s cottage is beyond help and demo is its only future. I suspect the Museum Stand will suffer the same fate. The new wall will serve some purpose if it provides upgraded toilet facilities and a home for the much loved NZ Cricket Museum. Council has a responsibility to maintain its existing assets before it splashes out on new toys!

     
  16. Victor Davie, 2. October 2013, 22:59

    Some days after the 6.6 earthquake while walking through the Basin Reserve I took time out to check over the museum stand. Saw no visible signs of damage. Smiled and relieved when I observed a yellow sticker on the entrance door and not a red one. The latter of course would prohibit occupation. So my message to the basin trustees is “GET ON WITH STRENGTHENING OR RESIGN”. As for the flyover: I don’t know how the trustees could ever consider leaving such a horrible legacy for future generations to endure.

     
  17. Guy, 3. October 2013, 7:10

    One of the key reasons against the Flyover is that it will act as a source of extra noise, broadcast over the Basin from on high. This is precisely why Councilor Morrison has wrangled the proposed new Stand, which will act as a noise barrier, as well as a visual barrier, and most of all, as a VIP drinks stand and player changing room. No word yet officially on the fate of the old Museum Stand, but judging by its appearance, Morrison has already mentally reserved it for demolition (despite any heritage value it may have).

    I wonder, however, if he has thought about what will happen to the Basin when it is demolished? While he is quite content to let it rot away at present (incidentally, both the Museum Stand and the Vance Stand were damaged in the recent earthquakes, with broken windows, cracks, and spalling concrete / cracks in brickwork), the loss of the Museum Stand would be almost as bad for the Basin as the Flyover will be. The raised nature of the roadway at Sussex St means that the noise source is high, and it is only currently contained by the mass of the Museum Stand. Without that, noise pollution and visual pollution will again despoil the Basin. Replacing it with a timber fence is not gong to work here…

    I’d like to see Morrison do more for the venue that he says he is there to act for. It’s a pretty crap response to not even turn up to the Council CCO meetings where the Basin Reserve Trust is asking for funding, especially seeing as he is a Councilor and presumably paid to be at the meetings anyway?

     
  18. Alana, 3. October 2013, 8:58

    Reggie, the information in the article is evidence-based – observations supported by photos, documents supplied by the Basin Trust to WCC, the Council’s records and reports, and Morrison’s own statements. Which do you suggest is in error?

     
  19. Grace Lamb, 3. October 2013, 9:00

    The Basin may well be iconic and it is certainly a very lovely space in a part of town that could well be enhanced by a spruce up, better facilities, better used for a variety of events and open to more people-friendly activities. I’m not interested in saving it just for cricket. Make it a People’s space…get people moving through, playing, using the space. It’ s gloomy and dead for so much of the year. And don’t kill it off with a flyover

     
  20. Andy, 3. October 2013, 17:19

    This is utterly astonishing! None of the posters seem to have an understanding of what the Council has paid for at the Basin during the John Morrison period. Because cricket attracts so few spectators outside the one annual Test match, the emphasis naturally has been on player facilities: the upgrade of the players changing facilities, development of the outdoor/off-field practice wickets, and sand-basing/draining of the playing surface are the three most obvious examples. For similar reasons, the Council upgraded Karori Park to first-class standard.

    It is very disingenuous to bring Cr Morrison’s daughter into the debate – she is a long-time cricketer and is an important woman voice on the Cricket Wellington board of directors. John Morrison is there by virtue of being the member for Onslow-Western and as the Mayor’s appointee for the Council’s sport portfolio.

     
  21. Sridhar Ekambaram, 3. October 2013, 17:33

    Andy! the reason Basin Reserve has just one or two annual events, is because the trustees don’t want it to be used for anything other than cricket. Another reason why the board of trustees has to change. The ground can be better used for so many other sporting events. Why is the board so adamant it should be used only for cricket?

     
  22. Andy, 3. October 2013, 17:42

    Funny how Alana Bowman cites a change of mind by Cr Morrison when she has also moved from a sympathetic voice to the plight of the Basin trustees (including Cr Morrison) to an all-out Blitzkrieg on his (and the trustees by inference). Alana said this in the Dominion Post on 5 February 2013: “The trustees of the Basin Reserve face a difficult, and probably painful, choice. If they don’t oppose the flyover, they may persuade NZTA to “mitigate” the degradation of its environment with a modern grandstand and player facilities; but by opposing it they lose an opportunity to improve the grounds with no cost to either the trust or the city.”

     
  23. Driver, 3. October 2013, 19:21

    So few spectators? Only one test a year? So why is the Transport Agency planning to spend $12m?

     
  24. Alana, 4. October 2013, 10:40

    Andy, no change of mind on my part. I of course understand the difficulty of the decision facing the Trustees – but that has nothing to do with the current poor condition of the grounds and structures of the Basin Reserve.

    Morrison’s statement, however, stands on its own in terms of inconsistency with his three votes in the past year supporting the flyover: “I have never voted for a flyover and I certainly won’t be voting for one in the future.”

     
  25. Ellie, 4. October 2013, 12:40

    I think, Andy, that these posters have a very good understanding of the issues. How is your job approach with NZTA coming after your latest serious flip flop over the Flyover?

     
  26. Sridhar Ekambaram, 4. October 2013, 22:36

    @Cynical: What is the issue here? the fact I am running for the council or not, or if John Morrison is good enough or not? To clarify your problems –
    1) For this issue, it is immaterial if I am standing for the council or not. However, if you still wanted to know, I had provided a link to my facebook page. If you had clicked on my name, you could have seen it and it is clear from the page I am running for the council. I have even made myself clear here why I don’t support the flyover. If that is still not enough, I am declaring here that I am running for the council. Is that enough for you? But now you need to tell me how is that relevant to the issue being discussed? Will be glad to know.
    2) When I said John Morrison keeps flipflopping on policies, I didn’t say others don’t – did I? The reason I said so, is because the discussion here is regarding John’s position. You are free to compare it to other mayoral candidates’ flip flopping approach. That is up to entirely you.

     
  27. Nick, 7. October 2013, 11:04

    What it comes down to for me is: have John Morrison’s actions made the Basin Reserve a better place? By supporting the flyover, he is degrading the appearance of the ground and the experience of watching cricket there. That isn’t taking into account the effects on the neighbouring area by the flyover either. Sure a new pavilion could be seen as an improvement, but it isn’t required for a ground that gets one or two matches a year of any importance, and then only a couple of thousand people in attendance each day.

    The pictures above show how uncared for the ground has been and for a very long time too. The way it is being run now isn’t sustainable, and is a waste of an asset. The Basin would be a fantastic park for Wellington, I would even say Wellington’s best place to watch a concert or spend time in the sun. It can’t be that hard to have the ground open for public use year round, and have stricter access during the preparation for a test match.

     
  28. Cynical, 7. October 2013, 13:12

    @Sridhar – You posted “John Morrison is the only mayoral candidate who keeps flip flopping in his policies. He just can’t be trusted as a councilor, leave alone as a mayor.”

    Point 1.You imply via this comment that others (including Celia W-B) don’t flip-flop.
    Point 2. This is a very negative personal statement about your lack of trust in John, and implies that you could not work with him as a councilor, if you were both to be elected.
    Point 3. This is an issue as voters have the right to know that you are not a random citizen having a rant, but that you are running for council.

     
  29. Peter Kennedy, 7. October 2013, 19:27

    Cynical – going by Sridhar’s numerous outbursts and comments, if he and John were elected to the Council, one could only assume that he would refuse to take any portfolio that Mr Morrison might offer him. This would be a waste, as Wellington needs a cohesive Council, that can work together for the betterment of Wellington.
    Peter Kennedy. Eastern Ward candidate

     
  30. Polly, 7. October 2013, 22:17

    Peter, how many meetings have you attended over the many years he has been on the council? He is the “joker” in the pack and sure has not worked for a cohesive council despite being handed portfolios to suit him, like sport, Cricket and Stadium Boards…..The way he goes on you would think he had personally laid the turf pitches, not passed in council and carried out by council officers.

     
  31. Euclidean Space, 8. October 2013, 20:29

    Doing the maths:

    Bringing the Museum Stand up to the minimum earthquake standard is estimated at $800,000.

    The resource consent process for the flyover will be over $1 million.

    Which would you prefer?

     
  32. Lizzie, 11. October 2013, 23:07

    The Basin Reserve Project! That is what it should be known as. Words fail me to describe how I felt after reading Alana Bowman’s story on the Basin. Stunned! And more. I really like Rob Goulden’s idea of the people of Wellington working together to bring the Basin Reserve back to its former glory. Let’s go for gold and make it better! Must confess here, I’m not into cricket so have never been inside the grounds. So! Doing the deed at the hairdressers this week he said he’d walked through the grounds the night before and was appalled at the state of the place. The motto for this project is “Miracles are possible and happen to those who believe in them”! Hold that thought. The Basin didn’t get in this state overnight. It will take a lot of hard work in a short time frame. Time is of the essence! We have cricket world games in Wellington early 2015. Let’s show the old council (hopefully not the new) and the Trustees just how revolting Wellingtonians can be when they make up their minds to do something. There must be a way we the people can take control and leave the guilty parties out of the equation. I’m taking over the cottage and Wakefield Memorial, and I nominate Elaine Hampton and Ellie to sort out the Museum Stand. So who is with me?

     
  33. Sridhar Ekambaram, 12. October 2013, 3:03

    @Peter Kennedy! I think you are beating the wrong end of the horse. You are witness to our press release (along with other prospective councillors) that we believe in co-operative politics. Co-operative politics doesn’t mean we will always agree with everything or never agree with anything. It means, we will have our differences, yet we will be ready to sit round the table and have healthy and meaningful discussions to resolve issues. Sure I don’t like a lot of John Morrison’s policies, but that doesn’t mean I won’t want to work with him. I can’t comment about others, but end of the day I will be working for Wellington not myself.

    Clear as mud! or twice murkier. BTW, the same John Morrison was totally uncooperative to Celia and gave her a tough time. Now you seem to think I will be uncooperative and give him a tough time. Isn’t it a bit ironical?