$50,000 OAKES OVAL FURORE
By SAMANTHA TURNBULL and SHAN GOODWIN
A LAST-MINUTE $50,000 decision to entice the likes of Shane Warne to the region has divided Lismore City councillors.
Lismore mayor Merv King used his casting vote on Tuesday night to pull $50,000 from the council's parks budget reserves to buy new cricket sight screens for Oakes Oval.
NSW Cricket officials, who visited Lismore last week, told council staff they would need to upgrade the oval's screens, or risk losing the NSW v Victoria Pura Cup match planned for January 16-19.
It is expected Test cricketers Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill will play in the match.
Sight screens are designed to block the crowd from the cricketers' vision and provide clearer visibility of the ball.
The decision to take $50,000 for the new screens, which will last 20 years, was criticised by councillors Vanessa Ekins, Ros Irwin, David Tomlinson, Jenny Dowell, Frank Swientek and Brian Henry.
Cr Ekins said Lismore had been waiting for a youth centre for almost a decade, as well as shade sails costing about $10,000 at the Tiny Tots Playground in Heritage Park.
"I don't object to big sporting events," she said.
"But this is not the first time ratepayers have had their money taken from somewhere else to fund a major sporting event.
"Heritage Park is our showcase park and we have been waiting for years for shade sails to be built over the Tiny Tots Playground."
Queensland mother-of three Sonya Hughes, who has been visiting her Casino parents every summer for the past 15 years, was at Heritage Park with her four-year-old daughter Keeley yesterday.
She said it was disappointing the Tiny Tots Playground had no shade sails and she had deliberately kept Keeley off the equipment because of the heat.
"My husband is 37 and has been diagnosed with four malignant melanomas and I'm only 33 and have to have a biopsy and plastic surgery on my nose because of sun damage," she said.
"All of my children see melanoma specialists, so I'm well aware of the importance of keeping children out of the sun. This is a beautiful park, but it's not very welcoming in summer."
Cr King said it was a difficult decision, but the Pura Cup match was too important to lose.
"We felt it was something we had to do to ensure we got the match," he said.
"A lot of people have been looking forward to it."