Nelson: For a city best known for year-round sunshine, pristine beaches and spectacular scenery, the cricket World Cup has brought a bigger than normal buzz here ahead of Monday’s game between the West Indies and Ireland.
Located on the north end of South Island and overlooking the picturesque Tasman Bay, Nelson has come to represent an idyllic mixture of tranquillity and adventure for visitors, reports CMC.
Its array of music and art festivals provide the perfect setting for the easy-going while the three iconic national parks serve up the thrills of hiking and kayaking for the more daring.
The arrival of the World Cup will introduce a new dynamic to the fun-loving city, however. Following on from the West Indies fixture, the United Arab Emirates play Zimbabwe next Thursday while Bangladesh face Scotland March 5.
Invariably, police have stepped up security in keeping with International Cricket Council (ICC) requirements for hosting World Cup games.
The numbers of security personnel have been increased substantially with reinforcements being added from Marlborough in the south-east and West Coast to cope with the anticipated high influx of visitors throughout the World Cup.
Saxton Oval will have 20 officers for each match with additional resources deployed on the major highways in-and-out of the city. Officers will also man traffic checkpoints, monitoring drunk driving. Crime prevention units have been established with an investigative unit on call to deal with major incidents.
Inspector Tim Crawford, the operation commander for the World Cup here, said planning for the event had been ongoing for months.
“We've got a full operation for the three World Cup games. Based on the previous games, people have gone to the cricket because they enjoy watching the cricket for a day out. We see it no different for World Cup," Crawford said.
“Add the flavour of having some international teams in town and some overseas visitors and it should be really good for the region.”
The city council, which has shelled out nearly $776,000 to host the three World Cup games will usher in Monday’s first game with a street party and a market day Saturday.
And while the city is hoping to see the economic spin-offs from the influx of visitors, they are also keen on ensuring the local population get a taste of the festivities.
“One of the key benefits of this is that we are able to offer the opportunity for our residents to attend an international event. It will also allow us to showcase the city to the world due to the massive audience that watches the matches played at Saxton Oval," communications manager Paul Shattock said.
The ground is one of the newest on the ICC grid. It hosted its first ever One-Day International (ODI) when West Indies toured New Zealand last year and also played host to the fourth ODI between New Zealand and Sri Lanka last month.
With the pending slate of World Cup matches, hoteliers have reported increased bookings and have also warned that late-comers face the risk of being without accommodation.
“February is always full and always busy. This year it is exceedingly full largely due to the number of events that are happening. If you are coming to Nelson from outside the area, be sure to book. There is room but you have to book," said John Gilbertson, administration officer for the Motel Association of New Zealand Nelson branch.
The World Cup is being jointly hosted by New Zealand and Australia. It bowls off Saturday with New Zealand playing Sri Lanka in Christchurch and Australia clashing with England in Melbourne.