Bowlers defend 125-year connection to domain

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By Linda Clarke

Ashburton Bowling Club president Jo Ryk says a 30-year plan to redevelop the Ashburton Domain can be tweaked to leave the bowling club where it is.

The club has a 125-year history at the domain and is keen to remain; its 90 members agree.

The landscape architects who prepared the $10.6 million longterm plan say the club’s greens and buildings are the heart of the domain space and should be relocated, making way for a central information hub.

Mr Ryk said he will fight to stay, though he is worried council could simply lock the doors and kick them out without compensation in 2028, when the bowling club’s lease on the land they have developed over many decades expires.

He estimates it will cost $2m to relocate – money that the club does not have and that has not been allowed for in council’s redevelopment budget.

The new hub could be built on land currently occupied by the ageing and unloved aviary, or on land that will be freed up when the parks department moves, or on land beside the children’s play area, he says.

There are plenty of other options, other than on the land used by the bowling club.

Mr Ryk said the club would be holding its own open day on Saturday (March 7), at the same time as council, so people could find out more about the club and its hopes for the future.

The immaculate greens and buildings are kept spick and span by volunteers. The playing season runs from mid-September until the end of April and on playing days the rinks are full.

He says visitors to the domain often wander in if the gate is open and recently he introduced 10 excited tourists from India to the game by letting them bowl on the lawn surface.

The club is regarded as one of the most picturesque in the district and its clubhouse is adorned with history. Certificates of achievement cover walls and tresses and its trophy cabinet contains silverware going back to the turn of the century.

Mr Ryk says it is a history that would be hard to transplant, given the time, energy and money already invested by members over more than 100 years.

The club and its members will be making submissions during the consultation phase of the domain plan.