The Auckland Unitary Plan mostly makes sense. It tries to bring some order into a previously random growth of New Zealand’s largest city and actually tries to make the place more like proper cities.
A lot of this change needs to happen. And it is refreshing to see some long term planning; haphazard development in the past has resulted in Auckland sprawling into less of a city than a collection of suburbs joined together by a motorway.
However, in the Eastern Suburbs it has all gone horribly wrong. Through some sleight of hand rezoning, Colin Maiden is marked down to become housing and a shopping mall. All those fields gone.
And once a sports ground is built on then that is the end of it. You never see land getting turned over the other way.
This is not some underused sports fields in the middle of nowhere; this is the primary sporting venue in Auckland’s growing eastern suburbs. It is currently bursting at the seams, due to growth in the area and the fact that a significant amount of effort and resources have gone in to making it one of the best facilities in Greater Auckland.
At Colin Maiden Park, the University Cricket Club provides 14 junior wickets on Saturday mornings and 5 senior wickets in the afternoons. This is insufficient to accommodate all of their teams as it stands now. Last season they had 49 morning junior teams and 15 playing in the afternoon so there is overflow to Glover Park, Mt Wellington War Memorial Domain, Crossfields Reserve and two local school grounds (but some of these wickets are too small to be used for afternoon cricket).
CMP is also used for various fixtures on Sundays (junior inter-club and senior Twenty20) and for Twilight cricket (a senior social competition) on Monday and Tuesday evenings.
But wait, there is more. The nine artificial nets at CMP are fully utilised in the afternoons and evenings on most weekdays for team trainings.
In addition to cricket the ground is also used by Eastern Suburbs football teams (along with their silent supporters) and the University Rugby Union club.
The Auckland University Sports Science department is also based at CMP and there are rumours that they are going to have to move too.
Do the maths to work out how many people of all ages will be affected by this.
That covers off the impact at grass-roots level but there is more to it than that. There is the impact of what it does to Auckland as a credible test cricket venue. As I noted in March, Eden Park is not a cricket venue. It is an embarrassing collection of concrete stands huddled around a field that is the shape of a rugby ground. It is just not a long-term option.
The main oval at Colin Maiden is one of two alternatives that could be upgraded to a proper test venue, and such as upgrade would have less of an impact on other activities compared to Western Springs.
The idea of a credible test cricket venue seems to be missing from the Unitary Plan.
This is not just an Auckland issue. The argument about how once a sporting field is poached for other purposes it never gets replaced exists everywhere. And our main population areas continue to grow.
Sporting clubs are vital in building up the spirit of a community. And surely the benefits of exercise for children are so obvious and well-known they do not need to be repeated.
It also seems strange that this is all part of a plan that trumpets itself as environmentally friendly. Not sure the 45 minute car rides to home games and practices is what is needed.
So what can you do? You write to your favourite Auckland City Councillor in protest. And if you live outside of Auckland write a letter, and get a friend of yours who does live there to submit it.
In addition to this, spread the word. The best way for politicians of any variety to change their mind is if they realise that opposition to a decision could lead to them losing their jobs.
Strangely, the only person in the sports media to take up this cause is Murray Deaker. However, his main concern appears to be that the new housing will be terraced apartments which misses the point really.
This is not easy. Make a noise.