New Zealand’s environmental watchdog stepped in yesterday to prevent a proposed flyover in Wellington that would have threatened the historic Basin Reserve’s status as a Test cricket venue.
The New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said keeping Test matches at New Zealand’s oldest cricket ground was a major factor in rejecting plans for a NZ$90 million (US$78 million) road construction next to the venue.
“We found that the expert evidence pointed clearly to the conclusion that the project would constitute an inappropriate development within this significant heritage area of the city,” a four-person panel of assessors found in a 3-1 decision.
Experts, including former Black Caps bowler and New Zealand Cricket chief executive Martin Snedden, had warned that traffic on the flyover could prove a dangerous distraction to batsmen at the ground, jeopardizing its Test status.
“Cricket balls are very hard. Impact on the human body of a fast-moving cricket ball can cause serious injury and even death,” Snedden told hearings into the project earlier this year.
The area was originally a basin, or dock, until a massive earthquake in 1855 changed Wellington’s geography, draining away the water, Heritage New Zealand said.
It was originally used for cricket in the 1860s and hosted its first Test match in 1929.
New Zealand’s Green Party said the decision was “a victory for common sense.”
New Zealand’s roads authority, which had argued that the flyover would ease major traffic bottlenecks in the area, has until the end of next month to appeal the decision.