New Zealand stops Basin Reserve fly-over

Wellington: New Zealand`s environmental watchdog stepped in Tuesday to prevent a proposed fly-over in Wellington that would have threatened the historic Basin Reserve`s status as a Test cricket venue.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said keeping Test matches at New Zealand`s oldest cricket ground was a major factor in rejecting plans for an NZ 90 million (USD 78 million) fly-over next to the venue.

"We found that the expert evidence pointed clearly to the conclusion that the project would constitute an inappropriate development within this significant heritage area of the city," a four-person panel of assessors found in a 3-1 judgement.

Experts including former Black Caps bowler and New Zealand Cricket chief executive Martin Snedden had warned that traffic on the fly-over could prove a dangerous distraction to batsmen at the ground, jeopardising its Test status.

"Cricket balls are very hard. Impact on the human body of a fast-moving cricket ball can cause serious injury and even death," he told hearings into the project earlier this year.

The area was originally a basin, or dock, until a massive earthquake in 1855 changed Wellington`s geography, draining away the water, according to Heritage New Zealand.

It was originally used for cricket in the 1860s and hosted its first Test match in 1929.

The Green Party said the decision was "a victory for common sense".

New Zealand`s roads authority, which had argued the fly-over would ease major traffic bottlenecks in the area, has until the end of next month to appeal the decision.

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