Stadium on the wharf will require a bed of new tax

Published 13 November 2006


In the morning, Auckland City councillors added the necessary extras to the council’s potential funding lines – a regional petrol tax and a bed tax. In the afternoon, Minister for Sport and for the Rugby World Cup Trevor Mallard – sounding for all the world like a Fletcher Construction marketing man – ended the charade and told a press conference Auckland had 2 choices for a new stadium.



One, a national stadium supported by significant Government funding, would be on the waterfront. The alternative, Eden Park, wouldn’t be a national stadium and wouldn’t attract the same funding lines.



Auckland mayor Dick Hubbard (left) supported the waterfront proposal. But he knew, even as he stood there, that half his council wanted investigation to continue on a third option, reviving Carlaw Park.



At the press conference I asked Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee how he felt his councillors would greet trampling of the Resource Management Act by the writing of legislation to ensure a waterfront stadium could be built quickly. He couldn’t say.


The ultimatum



Mr Mallard (at left, with Fletcher Construction chief Mark Binns) gave the 2 councils a fortnight (to Friday 24 November) to come up with a unanimous response and warned: “If you can’t get unanimity in Auckland you get Jade.”



There is leadership and there is direction by force. While Mr Mallard pretended what he was doing was leadership, what he was offering was a bribe to get councillors to break principles and to launch the region into a gamble of unknown financial quantity.



What Mr Mallard proposed looked, on the surface, like a $497 million proposal – $377 million for a stadium parked on 2 wharves and over the water between them, plus $120 million for piling & a platform to build it on.


Additional unknowns include the cost of compensation to Ports of Auckland Ltd for losing a section of its container wharf (to be negotiated with the ARC as ultimate owner, not with the Ports company). Among other excluded costs are gst, the cost of getting consent, finance development costs, a carpark deck & wharf protection.



Fletcher roles


Fletcher Construction chief Mr Binns said the waterfront stadium could be built in the tight timeframe before the rugby event in 2011. He said the construction company had been giving “buildability advice” to the Government & other parties, but its involvement was far more than that.


Fletcher Construction secured an untendered opportunity to build the platform on which the stadium would rise. Mr Mallard felt that Fletcher, with a centenary looming, wouldn’t cause a disaster, but that’s hardly a basis for a sound contract. If any other party were to secure the contract to build above the Fletcher platform, it would require guarantees of both the platform & the subsoil into which the Fletcher piles will be buried.


A Government fact sheet issued at the Friday press conference listed 9 options (including various waterfront options as one) which had been considered for a new Auckland stadium to seat 60,000 spectators for the rugby cup.


Apart from Fletcher Construction, the assessment was an out-of-town effort. Quantity surveying was done by the Wellington office of Rider Hunt Ltd, international stadium design company HOK was called in and engineers Romulus Consulting Group was involved.


Regional vision ignored


Their criteria were all about immediacy & whether the project could be done in town. Auckland councils have been working steadily towards longer-term vision, particularly because of the requirement for 10-year plans under the Local Government Act but, in addition, because of the need to accommodate possibly double the population in 50 years.


Councils have been beavering away on regeneration schemes, ways of upgrading & revitalising suburban town centres while maintaining their existing fabric, and ways of improving transport around the region. The arterial road network is being enhanced, offering travel choices which don’t all lead through the cbd.


Long-term vision for the region was absent from the stadium criteria.


The Carlaw option highlights dissent


This was highlighted by a statement from City Vision councillor Penny Sefuiva at the weekend on the support of the 9 councillors for reviewing Carlaw Park as a stadium option, a proposal which was defeated at last Thursday’s council meeting (which I was unable to attend):


“Given the lack of critical information to Council, ARC, ARTA, Metro project, Committee for Auckland, members of the construction industry or members of the architectural or urban design professions, it has been impossible for any open dialogue to occur.


“There has been no official invitation from Government to Council for an informed council view.


“Council has viewed this as a Government project and the elected council has been a passive bystander. The agenda item for council discussion occurred at my request so Council could express a view, but the confidential resolutions were based on the same paucity of information as has been in the public arena. Government’s decision & dialogue appears to have been captured by a small group of invisible voices, some of whom have had undue airplay in the media.


“Waterfront developments around the world emphasise their value as people spaces with opportunity to enhance the interface between land & sea. Wellington’s ‘cake tin’ is near the waterfront but on low-value railway land. A stadium development is inconsistent with those outcomes.


“Dialogue with a range of informed individuals raises increasing concerns about:

the risks & costs of building on a waterfront site
the economic impact on the cbd during construction
development capacity available for other projects & infrastructure
the ability to resolve public transport to the stadium in the medium term
the ongoing operational costs in this location
the urban & design impact of a huge enclosed inward-looking structure
lost opportunity costs for Ports’ trade and the city for an international-standard waterfront development.”

Cllr Sefuiva added: “The waterfront location for the national stadium is a Wellington answer to an Auckland problem, and would be an unacceptable blight to the long-term development of a vibrant city region.”


Timelines


The waterfront stadium timeline shows piling & platform consents having to be in place by next April and the work 50% completed by December 2007 to enable a start on the stadium above it.


4 of the funding sources for Eden Park & the waterfront stadium (provisionally called Stadium New Zealand) are the same:


$40-50 million from Auckland City Council
$30 million from Rugby NZ 2011 Ltd
$50 million from the Lotteries Commission, and
$20 million as an ASB Trust grant.

The fifth source would be sponsorship & corporate sales – $30 million for Eden Park, $69 million for the waterfront.


After those funds, Mr Mallard said the Government would meet half the cost. Other sources would need to include local taxes such as the bed & fuel taxes. Councillors have raised the possibility of a tax on hotels from time to time, but it’s always been deferred. The fast-track nature of this stadium proposal would enable it to be implemented without adequate discussion, even though Mr Mallard said the fast-track legislation would go through the select committee process.


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Attribution: Mallard press conference, Sefuiva release, Warren & Mahoney stadium images, story written by Bob Dey for this website.

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