Artificial pitches big issue in city council election

Only three of the seven candidates for the mayoralty and the Lambton Ward are unequivocal about their support for more artificial pitches on sports grounds.

The Yellow fever people have started a website http://www.backofthenet.co.nz/ which is about "Helping Wellingtonians Elect a Turf-friendly Council." Various candidates contributed their views.

Here's what I said "My policy on artificial pitches is simple; build more of them, and start now." There's no mucking around there. I then go on to discuss how they might be financed. For me raising rates is out, but a bit of borrowing, some commercial sponsorship and some 'pay to play' changes to finance the debt are all on the table.

Others  - including the current mayor - hedge, and dodge and weave (better than many of the All Whites), supporting artificals but stopping short of scoring a goal on the matter. 

Marcus Ganley, the Labour man standing in the Lambton Ward, says the current "plans must be accelerated." And Celia Wade Brown who is standing only for the mayoralty, has backed artificial pitches at the council table - one of only five current councilors to do so. Significantly that group of five did not include the so called leader in the sports portfolio, Councillor John Morrison.

The Mayor says that the "Council, by a large majority, decided to concentrate this and next year's (budget) effort on the $50m indoor sports centre."

Of the others, mayoral contender Jan Yan says "I'll vote with councillors who support artificial surfaces for our fields."

Celia Wade Brown is stronger. She says "I support faster roll-out of artificial turfs than in current plan. We want more than the six pitches in our current plan so must explore partnerships for funding."

She is right. And the DominionPost agrees with me and her. In its editorial last Saturday the paper thundered about kids not being able to play sport week after week because the grounds were closed, "being deprived of their birthright."

The paper said that providing playable sports fields was a core council service. I agree, and I want to see the council's performance improved. More artificials now. That has a good ring to it. But to get that, citizens will have to vote for the candidates who support a change in the council's spending priorities. I do.