High-profile cricket administrator and former test cricketer Martin Snedden has joined the ranks of those criticising plans for a concrete flyover alongside the Basin Reserve. But his concerns relate only to the impact on players and spectators within the Basin Reserve – he voiced no concerns for the much greater impact on the wider city. Here are extracts from his evidence to the board of inquiry this week; he was speaking on behalf of the Basin Reserve Trust.
MR SNEDDEN: I stood out there yesterday and I was picturing what it would be like to have this concrete flyover there. … I’m simply looking at what is – if this thing gets built what does it look like from inside the ground and in my mind’s eye picturing it and having had access to some of the sorts of things we’re looking at now, in the absence of any mitigation at all it looks hideous and imposing …
One of the things that is special about the Basin is there is a lot of greenery around. It’s an informal ground. It’s got a different flavour than a whole lot of sporting venues that have now emerged in the professional age around the world where concrete has taken over. Much as I love the stadium down the road, that’s a product of the modern era.
What we’ve got out here is a product of history and suits the type of game that is played in the arena down to the ground. And the two things come together to create something really special. We saw that only a couple of months when we had that fantastic test against India and McCullum had his special moment where basically on the morning of him getting to 300 the city cleared out and came down here and participated in something that was just magnificent.
And so I was standing out there yesterday looking across at this and thought all right, so I’ve got a view whether it causes problems for the batsmen and I’ve expressed that, likewise for the fielders. But actually in terms of the ground itself, for the people who love the ground, the people who come here to watch and who really value what this ground’s about and to suddenly have this concrete highway right on the edges of it – because it is right on the edges. It’s not pushed back 50 metres or whatever. It’s right there, just outside the perimeter.
And that is going to have an enormous impact on the look and feel of the ground. So mitigation becomes so incredibly important because of the history of the ground, because of the flavour of it, because of what it is. To make sure that that mitigation is right, because we don’t get a second crack at this. Unless NZTA has an open chequebook that says all right, if we don’t get it right the first time we’ll have a crack and get it right the second time. It won’t happen that way.
So I think all of us cricket people that are sitting here and those that have submitted who aren’t here are saying, please whatever you do don’t take away from what the specialness of this ground is because that’s why it has people who are prepared to give up a whole lot of time to turn up and express their views. That’s why it is what it is and so I think going back to some of the questions … which were sort of in some ways trying to test why would the trustees agree at all to anything. I think what the trustees are saying well we realise we don’t live in our own bubble … life has to go on and traffic is a bit of an issue for Wellington.
So if better things can be done, fine, but those making that sort of progress must also respect what is here and what has been here for more than 100 years and why that is so important to Wellington and must do everything they absolutely can to make sure whatever the end result is that, yes, it captures the benefits that the traffic management guys think can exist but likewise it doesn’t undermine what exists here now…
Everything’s got to co-exist and so you have to find a balance and I guess this process itself is about trying to find the balance between all sorts of valid, important and competing interests. I said a flyover looks hideous – everywhere around the world they look hideous. That’s just a fact of life. Bunch of concrete and, yes, it has the potential to impact on a moment in time in the experience of the spectators who are coming into the ground.
Having a view of traffic as a backdrop would negatively impact the spectator experience and general atmosphere of the Basin Reserve. It will significantly reduce the attractiveness for spectators and therefore the attractiveness of hosting test match cricket there. In a time where many sporting codes are struggling to attract sufficient crowds this could have a severely detrimental impact on visitor numbers and on the finances of Wellington Cricket, the Basin Reserve Trust and New Zealand Cricket as a major user of the ground.
Another witness on the same day was Professor Harry Ricketts from Victoria University, a self-described cricket enthusiast:
DR RICKETTS: Well I don’t purport to be a traffic expert but it’s clear to me that if there were a different option from a flyover, from an aesthetic cricket watching point of view that would be a better option. So it seems to me that this issue depends on what weighting you give to different priorities. And we don’t have to be experts in either of those fields to have a reaction to that. If you think that cities are created for people, not people for cities, then you will probably think like I do that preserving something as beautiful and special as the Basin Reserve should be given a very high priority and that things which are without very marked and obvious benefit to the community should be of a lower priority.