Cricket star Josh Hazlewood has added his voice to the chorus of condemnation of Tamworth Regional Council’s proposed fee restructure of council-owned sport facilities.
The Bendemeer-raised Hazlewood signed a petition against the move that was launched by the Tamworth District Cricket Association last week, ahead of council’s vote on the proposal on Tuesday night.
TDCA said the move would result in a doubling of cricket fees and an exodus of players, especially children.
Tamworth just got voted the fattest city in Australia, and this will get less kids playing the sport during the summer.Tamworth District Cricket Association president Ben Middlebrook
Hazlewood said: “I grew up playing cricket in Tamworth and I would hate for these extra costs to stop people playing cricket. Especially kids who love the game and are maybe chasing their dreams.”
By Sunday afternoon, more than 530 people had signed the petition, including former Australia one-day international Erin Osborne.
TDCA president Ben Middlebrook said he was not optimistic council would rethink its fee strategy.
He said Paul Kelly, council’s senior strategy and facilities coordinator, had insisted that “if he budges on one sport [with regards to fees], he has to budge on others”.
“I’ve been working with council workers and they haven’t budged since August, or whenever it [the proposal] came out,” he said. “They haven’t taken anything [we have said] into consideration.”
He added: “It’s very disappointing council hasn’t been compromising … Tamworth just got voted the fattest city in Australia, and this will get less kids playing the sport during the summer.”
Middlebrook urged council to “go back to the drawing board” and work with the affected sports.
“I feel they really need to sit down and see that this fee restructure doesn’t work for everyone,” he said.
Mayor Col Murray said the fee restructure was a “fair and equitable charging regime” that involved “a reasonable level” of fees for the cost of maintaining sporting fields.
Cr Murray labelled the current system as “higgledy-piggledy” and based on historical agreements. He said the fees proposed were relevant to the cost of preparation.
“It’s a very costly exercise to prepare turf wickets,” he said. “The best way to reduce costs is to look for more volunteer input.
“Council wants to bring some equity to the system and move towards a user pays model. Cricket is being treated the same as every other sport.”