SHARE
Concentrating hard . . . Competing in track racing at Timaru's Caledonian Ground last week are (from left) Conor Toomey, Zoe Spillane and Emily Toomey. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/ BRADLEY POWDRELL

by Chris Tobin

The future of Timaru’s long-established cycling track at the Caledonian Ground hangs in the balance.

The track has steadily deteriorated to the point where the president of the newly formed Cycling South Canterbury club, Darren Cuthbertson, said it was in a desperate state.

Money is the big issue.

The Timaru District Council has said it has funding available for resealing but it is conditional on the cycling club contributing 25% of the overall cost.

A cycling track has existed at the Caledonian Ground for more than a century.

However, the countdown is on, as the council says the upgrade money will no longer be available unless the newly formed club acts soon.

“The council has put money aside in a budget to upgrade which is contingent on the club contributing 25% of the cost,” the council’s group manager community services, Sharon Taylor, said.

“This money has been held in the budget for several years with the club’s knowledge, but is not intended to continue to be carried forward beyond this financial year.”

The financial year ends on June 30.

Mr Cuthbertson said the cycling club wanted to apply for funding from trusts last year but was hamstrung by not knowing what amount council required as its contribution.

In the balance . . . The Cycling South Canterbury club says the Caledonian Ground is in a desperate state. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

When the council first set aside funding several years ago it was estimated that amount would be $65,000 to $70,000, but, through the lapse in time, this required reassessment.

Mr Cuthbertson said emails flowed between him and Bill Steans, the council’s parks and recreation manager, which ended in December with Mr Steans suggesting Mr Cuthbertson get a quote himself from Fulton Hogan.

Mr Cuthbertson thought it would have been more appropriate for the council to obtain a quote and then advise the cycling club of the contribution they would have to make.

He had been extremely busy at the time working in his bike shop business and had not sought a quote from Fulton Hogan.

Mr Cuthbertson said it had been more than 20 years since the track was resealed and cyclists were reluctant to race there.

“The track makes it difficult to run big events. Parts of the track are just held together with a bit of tar.

“A lot of top cyclists, like Colin and Mark Ryan, Shane Archbold and others, did a lot of their racing there.

State of cycling . . . Darren Cuthbertson, president of the newly formed Cycling South Canterbury club. PHOTO: COURIER FILES

“It would be a shame to lose it. The track’s important for development and seeing who has got the goods.”

He estimated Timaru had about 30 junior track cyclists, more if the wider area was taken into account.

Temuka once had a cycling track but it had been ripped up by the council several years ago.

Ms Taylor said the Temuka track was removed “as part of the redevelopment of the Temuka Domain”.

Waimate has a cycling velodrome in Victoria Park that is about as old as Timaru’s, but it was rebuilt in 2000.

Mr Cuthbertson said the surface had been resealed and was in better condition than Timaru’s.

Waimate’s parks and reserves manager, Graeme Watts, said when the velodrome was rebuilt, the Waimate District Council met most of the cost.

“The Waimate Caledonian Society, through external funding, helped contribute to the rebuilding costs. Council is responsible for maintaining the velodrome.”

Ms Taylor said the Timaru council planned to maintain the Caledonian Ground as a sporting facility and was investigating options to improve drainage on the main playing surfaces.