has been added.

The building of the Harvey Wright fields and the Northcote club rooms

In the early 1970s Birkenhead RSA approached Northcote Birkenhead RFC to see if the club was interested in taking over its premises at Birkenhead War Memorial Park. This was prompted by the opportunity the RSA had of taking up an option over 1O acres of land in a reserve situated in Eskdale Rd and administered by a Domain Board on which the Birkenhead City Council had representation. The RSA wished to re­ site its operation and needed Northcote Birkenhead's assurances to further it plans.

However, the area in question passed to the control of Takapuna City Council following the re-allocation of boundaries after the dissolution of the Waitemata County Council and was zoned a wilderness area. From this chain of events evolved a plan whereby a new building was to be built on Birkenhead War Memorial Park for the RSA with Northcote Birkenhead RFC taking over the existing RSA building.

Club Construction
When Harvey Wright Field was a gully, not a rugby venue. The very beginning.

1970: Councillor Nola, chairman of the Parks and Reserves committee, approached the Northcote Birkenhead RFC with the suggestion the club take up the lease of the gully area bounded by Birkenhead Ave and the formed portion of Birkenhead War Memorial Park. Soccer and league were offered Shepherd's Park Nos 2 and 3 grounds at Birkenhead War Memorial Park, respectively.

1970-74: The club engaged surveyors and engineers and provided labour to clear grid lines and in December 1974 signed a lease for 12.5 acres, covering the area to be developed.

1975-76: Two fields were developed by bringing in clean fill and having preliminary drainage work done. A contract was then let for cut and fill to form the two fields. The base work was done to develop a third field at a later date. In December 1976 the club learned that the lease that had been formally drawn up and 'stamped' had not been registered with the Commissioner of Crown Lands. The club had been relying on the council and its solicitor to attend to this.

Club Construction
Making a start. Chum Arblaster and Harvey Wright erect the sign that let locals know fill, acres of it, was required .
Club Construction - Dave and Hugh
Dave Newman and Hugh Arblaster working up a sweat as the development begins.

1977: A revised Reserves Act came into force, which among other things called for a management plan for all public reserves.

1980: On 11 June Birkenhead City Council held hearings for objections to the draft management plan, in which it stated that the lease granted Northcote Birkenhead RFC was illegal. Representatives of the club attended the hearing and requested that the legality of its lease be resolved before the management plan was promulgated. The final management plan was passed on 26 August, subject to approval by the Minister. The lease to Northcote Birkenhead RFC was covered by a clause stating that the council would negotiate with the club for a satis­factory solution to the lease arrangements.

1982: The club and Birkenhead City Council met on several occasions to draft a new lease in terms of the Reserves Act 1977. This draft lease was signed by the club in December and was to be formalised and presented to the Minister of Lands for his approval.

1983: The lease and plans for the proposed building for training and social facilities were presented to the Commissioner of Crown Lands in Auckland, but the club now understood that he would not act and it required the application to go to Wellington.

Club Construction Harvey and Bruce
Harvey Wright and Bruce Blackett quench their thirsts during a hot summer's day.
Club Construction
Harvey Wright Field begins to take shape, but there's an awfully big gully still to fill.

1984: The foundations were finally laid for Northcote Birkenhead's new clubrooms.

1985: In March, Birkenhead MP Jim Mclay, the Leader of the Opposition, officially declared the new clubrooms open.

A letter, dated 16 June 1982, from the club president to the Birkenhead City Council, illustrates the challenges that faced the club over the lease.

Dear Sir,

The executive has instructed me to inform you that the club considers it has a contractual right to continue to enjoy the conditions negotiated for the original lease in 1974. However, the executive committee is prepared to recom­mend to the club's members that the club should enter into a new lease on the following basis:

  1. That the club should have the exclusive use of Harvey Wright Fields during the period 1 February to 31 October each year.
  2. That any organised use of the fields during the remainder of each year by other organisations would require the prior consultation of this club (which would normally not be refused subject to proper precautions being taken to ensure that any damage to the fields would be promptly remedied at the expense of that organisation).
  3. We understand that the council is pre­pared to undertake maintenance of Harvey Wright Field and that a figure of about $13,000 has been allowed for this purpose in the current estimates. At the moment, the club's members are attending to main­tenance on a voluntary basis and it is suggested that this should continue for the next five years at least on the basis that the council would pay to the club the amount allowed in the estimates for main­tenance on an annual basis over those five years. This would provide additional finan­cial assistance to the club without council incurring any expense itself over what has already been budgeted.
  4. Drainage work was carried out on Harvey Wright Fields by the club during the 1981- 82 season at a cost of about $6000. This work was carried out following com­munications with the council which led the club to believe that its lease of the fields was assured. The club asks that the council reimburse it for the cost of this work.
  5. The club would like an acknowledgement from the council that the floodlighting which it has installed at Harvey Wright Fields should remain its property. The club will be responsible for the mainte­nance of this lighting and for the cost of electricity.
  6. That the council confirm that it will give favourable consideration to the grant of a substantial sum to the club from the Sport and Recreation Fund. The club sug­gests that a figure of $30,000 would be appropriate for that purpose.
  7. That the council give a commitment to guarantee a loan of $200,000 to the club to assist with construction of a new clubhouse on Memorial Park.
  8. That a lease be granted for a site on which to build the new clubrooms at the location already discussed with the council. The clubrooms to conform in all respects with the conditions already lad down by council's Town Planning Committee; the lease to be for a term of 33 years with a right of renewal for a further term of 33 years at a rental in each case of $10 per annum and in other respects to be upon terms similar to the present lease.
  9. That the council provide car parking along the lines already discussed with and agreed to by the council.

The club for its part would accept the above conditions in lieu of compensation for the extensive improvements which the club has carried out on Harvey Wright Field at its own cost, as detailed in previous correspondence.

Yours faithfully

B R Blackett, President

With no little assistance from Northcote's dedicated club member Northcote's magnificent clubrooms steadily materialised until in March, 1985, they were officially declared open by Birkenhead's MP, Jim McLay.
Club Construction Club Construction Club Construction Club Construction Club Construction Club Opening