Ballina Croquet Club members (front, from left) Lorraine Whiteman, club captain of golf croquet; Jean Hill, coach of the golf croquet; and club president Mary Hughes stand united yesterday as members of the new Ballina Cherry Street Croquet Club play in the background.
Ballina Croquet Club members (front, from left) Lorraine Whiteman, club captain of golf croquet; Jean Hill, coach of the golf croquet; and club president Mary Hughes stand united yesterday as members of the new Ballina Cherry Street Croquet Club play in the background. DOUG EATON

Croquet showdown ends in tears

A LONG-RUNNING turf war between the old and new Ballina croquet clubs erupted yesterday after a peaceful protest coincided with a new playing schedule.

The Ballina Croquet Club hosted a tea party on the group’s contested lawns in protest over the formation and first day of access for the new Ballina Cherry Street Croquet Club.

After a morning of tea and deliberation, members of the original Ballina Croquet Club came face-to-face with the newcomers, who are responsible for ‘bullying and abuse’, Ballina Croquet Club president Mary Hughes says.

“There were two ex-players and five board members who came down to the lawns and we blocked the entrance to the doors,” she said.

“I kept saying that the Minister for Lands hasn’t made his decision yet, but they didn’t care one bit. They just came towards us and said ‘excuse me, move. We have the lease’.

“One of the board members was taking a movie of it and they were all laughing at us. Everyone is very upset and some ladies have gone home crying.”

Ballina Bowling and Recreation Club board deputy chairman Ken Clarke said playing time on the lawns had been divided up fairly between the two clubs and denied any bullying.

“We went down about 12 o’clock to install our equipment and they stood in front of the door, so we opened another door and got access,” Mr Clarke said. “We have to act on our lease and if the Minister changes the lease we will comply. But at the moment we have to operate on the October 2009 lease.

“There was no bullying at all. We were just waiting for an opportunity to get into the building. The bowling club has allocated three days each week to each club.

“There is room for both clubs and there is no reason they can’t co-exist.”

Greens MLC Ian Cohen has been lobbying the Minister for Lands on the issue and says the actions of the new croquet club are ‘appalling’.

“It appears to me from this distance and the level of upset that these people have decided to take the law into their own hands,” Mr Cohen said.



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