20 July, 2023
Botched earthworks leave school fields unuseable
Wairau Intermediate School students have been deprived of playing fields for six years due to a botched transfer of soil from nearby Sunnynook Park.
Dirt and clay excavated from the park to turn it into a “dry pond” that floods during heavy rainfall was moved to the school fields in 2017 to elevate and level them, with the aim of solving drainage issues.
This was seen as a “win-win situation” by Auckland Council’s Healthy Waters.
But the fields have been unuseable ever since, due to the clay subsiding and cracking.
School principal Yolanda East said students had as a result had to do sports activities at Sunnynook Park. For athletics days they travelled to Millennium Stadium in Mairangi Bay, which cost the school both time and money.
The school has also missed out on potential income, as sports teams showing interest in hiring the fields changed their minds as soon as they saw them, East said.
“You look across the road to Sunnynook Park and they’ve got this beautiful flat park and then you look at what we’ve got and you think, ‘Oh, okay.’ ”
The school has also been hampered in growing its roll, given that quality on-site facilities were attractive to parents, she said. Contractors who mow the grounds have had equipment break due to cracks in the surface, and the school has had to pay more for mowing as the elevation meant more specialised equipment was required.
Auckland Council agreed in January to undertake remedial works, which are expected to start next month. A new swale drain, cesspits and new drainage pipes will be installed.
Contractors will also resurface the fields and reseed the grass.
It was agreed that the school would not accept a handover of the fields unless it was fully satisfied with the quality of the works, which are expected to start next month and be finished by February 2024, weather and other factors permitting.
East said the works have been “a long time coming”, and she remains wary about whether the problems will necessarily be solved.
“The plans are good, they’re robust, but I guess in my mind I just keep thinking that it is just a big pile of clay, and clay just keeps moving.”
Healthy Waters head of design and delivery Chris Stumbles said the remedial works were delayed because of multiple severe weather events this year and needed to be completed in summer, as they required a long stretch of good weather.
He said that even before the soil was transferred to the school grounds, a lack of drainage and underlying clay meant the fields were usable only for a few months of the year.
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