Bowlers win battle to stay in domain

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The Ashburton Bowling Club has won its battle to stay in the Ashburton Domain.

A 30-year development plan had proposed moving it to make way for a central hub for all domain users, but club members and supporters rallied in opposition. They were among 164 people to make submissions on the plan, which is a living document regularly reviewed.

Ashburton District councillors hearing the submissions this week were almost unanimously in favour of the bowling club staying where it is in the centre of the domain and the planned hub, which is more like a covered outdoor eating and meeting space, being created on the western side of the existing playground and a new water play area, where a BBQ now sits.

Cr Leen Braam, a landscape architect, backed the architects of the development plan and said the bowling club land was a natural centre for the domain. He said the plan needed to be visionary.

But other councillors disagreed and said relocating the proposed hub was the best way forward for all parties. They also said they wanted the bowling club to be part of the domain and suggested its high solid fences be replaced with “see-through” alternatives so players and the greens could be seen.

Other projects in the development plan include a new in and out access road from Walnut Avenue, likely to happen when NZTA puts in new traffic lights at the intersection of the avenue and State Highway 1 (West Street).

The aviary, old and tired, seems destined to go in favour of bees and butterflies. Council’s current parks depot will be reduced and a new car park created near the West Street entrance, which will be left in and left out only.

Councillors spent a day working through public submissions and their preferences will now be worked into a final draft development plan that will go to the community services committee on August 27, then to full council for approval.

Balancing ratepayers’ expectations for the space was a big job.

Jo Ryk, a bowler, said the Ashburton club had been there for over 120 years and the greens and facilities coveted by others. There was no money to relocate the clubrooms and develop new greens elsewhere.

He asked for a 10-year extension on their current lease from 2028 to 2038.

The club presented a petition with over 1000 names (650 online and 412 on paper) to support its stance.

Former district councillor Robin Kilworth, who lived on Walnut Avenue across from the domain, said council needed to protect the park and make sure new development did not creep on to existing open space.

She was against the development of too many footpaths, including one running the length of domain to be called Walnut Avenue promenade.

She said it was hard planning for future uses, as even the existing tennis courts and hockey turf had not been foreseen 30 years out.

The domain was planned when Ashburton town was first laid out in 1864. Seeking feedback for the current development plan, council asked for inspirational, bold and visionary ideas.

A swag of other improvements have been proposed, some aimed at better linking the CBD and the southern corner of the domain. A pedestrian crossing over SH1 at Wills Street and a pedestrian bridge over the highway were suggested.

There were also requests from submitters to reinstate the flying fox, which was dismantled early March. Another asked for council to cull some of the pigeons, who were leaving excrement; he called them “flying rats”.