Innovative plan to retire Happy Valley sportsfield for housing development

Mayoral Candidate, Councillor Andy Foster is proposing an innovative plan to retire Happy Valley sportsfield for housing development, and use the proceeds to

  • improve the local environment;
  • build two artificial turfs for football;
  • improve cricketing facilities;
  • slash sportsfield charges for football and cricket;
  • complete the City’s wild reserve network;
  • and create new inner city parks.

“It’s an idea that evolved from yet another Happy Valley football match last year, sloshing around in the mud,” says Andy. “Happy Valley is widely recognized by those condemned to play on it as one of the worst football grounds in the city, which usually goes from rock hard to muddy bog within a few weeks of the arrival of winter rains.”

“Most of our worst sportsfields are undevelopable because they have significant issues like being built over municipal landfills, but on investigation it turns out that Happy Valley is not even actually a former landfill. It is just a very poor sportsfield. It appears almost certain it could be very easily developed for much needed housing,”  says Andy. “I’ve spent my whole time on Council adding hugely to our reserve network, so this isn’t normally the kind of approach I’d take. However the poor quality of the field, allied with the potential to achieve a host of sporting and environmental benefits as a result makes it well worth proposing.”

“The key point of this proposal is that the housing development would pay for a wide range of sports and reserves improvements that would otherwise have little or no chance of happening. For example the last 3 or 4 Councils have repeatedly refused my proposals to budget for completing the City’s wild reserve network. Getting money for downtown parks has been similarly challenging. The result has been that when we do actually buy land it costs ratepayers more than it would if we’d included money in our budgets.” says Cr Foster, “My proposal would also significantly reduce the cost of playing football and cricket, being the sports that currently use Happy Valley Park – and all this is genuinely at zero cost to ratepayers.”

“The proposal, if fully developed, is expected to generate between $24 and 29 million. That is sufficient to pay for:

  • Two new artificial turfs in addition to the one already in Council’s Long Term Plan
  • Improvements to a wide range of cricket wickets and outfields
  • Allow sports subscriptions to be permanently reduced for the two codes by reducing debt by the capitalized equivalent of Council’s sportsfield charges to Cricket Wellington and Capital Football (ie 25 times the annual charge). That is the equivalent of a 35-40% reduction in senior football charges and $350 per senior cricket team. (note this would not affect training charges)
  • Pay for a range of local amenity and environmental improvements, revegetation, stream enhancement and walking tracks in Owhiro Bay.
  • Providing enough funding to complete the City’s entire wild reserve network (Outer Green Belt, Harbour escarpment and other bush areas) after development contributions
  • Providing substantial funding for inner city reserve purchase and development
  • Potentially contributing to looking after neglected military heritage on Council reserves

The proposal suggests approximately 96 dwellings on the site, though that number could be refined depending on design layout, and on whether part of the park might be retained as a local open space.”

“We have a few other really poor sportsfields but Happy Valley is the only one that is both a very poor sportsfield and only has a very limited history of ‘clean fill’ tipping which our landfill experts don’t think would prevent easy development for much needed housing.  It also isn’t Town or Outer Green Belt.”

“In developing this idea, I talked to a lot of people, including our landfill experts, parks, Capital Football and Cricket Wellington as the codes using the ground, Friends of Owhiro Stream and Owhiro Bay School. Capital Football and Cricket Wellington are very enthusiastic, Friends of Owhiro Stream and Owhiro Bay School much more cautious. I also briefed Council senior management and Councillors about the proposal earlier this year. They were either explicitly supportive, or at least cautiously interested. Nobody said it was a bad idea.”

“I have written a detailed paper on the concept, risks and finances, which has been submitted to the Council Chief Executive. I am posting that paper to my website.

“There are a fair few steps to go through. Initially my paper asks for initial exploratory work to be undertaken and for officers to further develop and refine the proposal and then to engage with key stakeholders, and then if there are no critical barriers, undertake wider community consultation.”

“It is definitely a lateral proposal, though a good deal more thought through than a couple of recent proposals to re-purpose local golf courses. Some people are likely to find it challenging. Nevertheless the extensive benefits for sport and the environment make it well worth proposing, and it would provide some much needed housing.”


For further information please contact:

Cr Andy Foster    021 227 8537

Read the full paper here:

Proposal to retire and re-purpose Happy Valley sports field