Artificial turf with crumbed rubber being tested in Ellerslie reserve

Press Release – Orakei Local Board
A new artificial football turf at Michaels Avenue Reserve in Ellerslie will score New Zealand and world ‘firsts’.

Crumbed rubber in the field has been given a massive safety tick after a series of comprehensive scientific tests never carried out in this country before.

And an internationally groundbreaking water quality study at the reserve will start straight away to check the installation poses no ecological threat to wetland and the downstream catchment.

The result is a boost for Auckland Council’s sports fields programme and provides reassurance to communities across the region as more artificial turfs are rolled out to meet growing demand for extra playing and training capacity.

Orakei Local Board instigated the project to allay fears raised last October by staff and parents at the adjacent Michael Park Rudolf Steiner School that recycled car tyres used as cushioning in the field would cause environmental and health problems. The school was also worried chemicals needed to maintain the turf would contravene a herbicide ban in place at the reserve since 1994.

The Board quickly reconfirmed its support for the ban and formed a working party, featuring council staff, representatives from the school, Ellerslie FC and other sports groups, to tackle concerns and share research findings.

The extensive testing programme was managed by Auckland company, Renovate Turf Consultants, together with Auckland Council’s Research, Investigation and Monitoring Unit.

Previous information on turf safety had only been available from other countries. But the Michaels Avenue project, which saw all results sent for independent scientific review, has conclusively supported global evidence that no adverse effects are likely from the reuse of tyre materials in sports fields.

Confirmation came from data analysis of chemicals “out-gassed” from the crumb rubber in the identical artificial turf at Parrs Parks in Glen Eden. These were well within workplace and ambient air quality guidelines.

Subsequently, Orakei Local Board agreed that:

• On-site air quality testing would take place prior to installation of the Michaels Ave turf and continue once it is fully laid
• Auckland Council’s parks team will maintain the reserve’s herbicide ban and consult with Michael Park School over the annual application of an environmentally-friendly sanitiser to the turf
• The two-year water quality research project will be undertaken to ensure there is no future environmental impact on the nearby wetland.

Work is now being completed on the turf in time for Ellerslie Football Club’s senior men’s team to play their first home game in the Lotto NRFL Premier competition under lights at Michaels Ave at 6pm on Saturday (13 April).

Michael Park School teacher Karen Affleck gives credit to Orakei Local Board for “acting immediately to address our concerns, pull some diverse interests together and enter into a sound and through process to investigate and resolve the issues”.

Board chair Desley Simpson, who headed the project, is delighted with the outcome.

“We were very conscious of considering and protecting the needs of the school and wider community. To do that, it was important to be transparent and open,” she says.

“All recorded information was shared with the key stakeholders and all the research was scientifically based, thorough and targeted.”

Dr Marke Jennings-Temple, owner of Renovate Turf Consultants, says: “This is a great success story for Orakei Local Board and bodes well for similar developments.

“With on-going water quality monitoring at Michaels Avenue, it positions Auckland Council as unique; leading and encouraging continuing research into artificial turf surfaces not carried out before anywhere in the world.”


Sports Field Capacity Development Programme

Over the next 10 years, Auckland Council is investing $190 million into developing, upgrading and renewing sports fields across the Auckland region. The programme is a combination of regionally funded projects and local board identified and funded projects. It will include installing artificial turfs and sand carpet fields, renewing existing fields, lighting, draining and new field development. By the end of the programme, Aucklanders will be able to enjoy an additional 2,476 training hours per week through:

• 66 fields with drainage improvements

• 134 new sand carpet fields

• 139 fields with new training lights

• 37 new artificial turf fields.

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