Published 29 November 2006
Manukau City’s mayor turned the stadium debacle into a Government fry-up today. Sir Barry Curtis said Manukau City Council had played no part in decisions over the upgrade of Eden Park and wouldn’t contribute funding towards it.
Sir Barry’s statement turns the 2-week ultimatum which Minister for Sport & the 2011 Rugby World Cup, Trevor Mallard, delivered to 2 other Auckland councils on 10 November on its head.
Mr Mallard offered the Auckland City Council & Auckland Regional Council the opportunity to choose between 2 bad options â€“ a waterfront stadium which was largely unpriced, geologically uncertain and unwanted by anybody with an ounce of urban design sensitivity, and the home of Auckland rugby, Eden Park, where neighbours have managed to tie the trust board down to a limited number of events annually, and a very limited number of night-time events.
Sir Barry, North Shore mayor George Wood and Rodney mayor John Law all attended the 10 November media conference (they had seats while most of the media didn’t) at accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, overlooking the proposed waterfront stadium site (should have been held down on the 12th floor, just to show what you would have no longer seen if that stadium had been built).
The mayors asked questions, an interesting variation on media roles, and were told in no uncertain terms that they weren’t involved: This was a matter between the Government, the Auckland City & Auckland Regional Councils.
The regional council has already said it won’t contribute to an Eden Park upgrade.
Today, Sir Barry said: “We have not been consulted and it is wrong to assume that we & other councils in the region will automatically stump up to pay for an extravagant & expensive project which I believe is unnecessary.
“The assumption’s been made that councils will help pick up the tab, and most likely a large part of it. That’s not correct. Manukau has not budgeted for such expenditure and it isn’t acceptable for us to be simply presented with a bill for something we took no part in planning and have not agreed to fund. Other councils are in the same position, I am certain.
“I do not support a deluxe upgrade of a private facility at the public’s expense. If the current plan goes ahead, we would be faced with an expensive white elephant because there will be few large events in the future needing seating for 60,000 people.
“I believe the whole upgrade can be done for a relatively small amount of money using temporary seating that can be removed once the World Cup is over. The cost for this option has been put at around $40 million. But even if it is higher, it would be much less than the likely cost of the deluxe upgrade at $400 million-plus, which equates to over $30,000/seat.”
The heading on Sir Barry’s release was, Manukau will not pay for an extravagant white elephant at Eden Park. But the impact goes far beyond that.
Prime Minister Helen Clark went to Dublin to support the NZ Rugby Union’s cup bid, based on having a final before 60,000 people at Eden Park. The Government decided to intervene when it learned the cost had ballooned, possibly now to $385 million for a stadium which would no longer have temporary seating but would have new stands in a far superior upgrade.
Mr Mallard came to Auckland with his ultimatum, perhaps ignoring the fact that, just as Auckland City couldn’t possibly let an event like this shuffle over the bridge to North Harbour Stadium or down to a new ground at Wiri, the “suburban” councils feel no compassion toward the local centre either.
The Government can throw a tantrum, pull motorway programmes and cause more congestion around the Auckland region in spite. The result of that would be a vote for National and new motorway programmes in a couple of years.
The blundering mallard has more than shot himself in the foot, he’s put the prime minister’s job on the line too.
It’s the Government that fronted with world cup support and the Government that has to ensure there’s a place to play the final. It could take the final to Jade Stadium in Christchurch, but would now have to guarantee long-term capital debt & opex cover. And if the Government took the final away from a city which didn’t know how to organise itself for the event, well, more votes lost.
28 November 2006: Waterfront out, new governing body for all Auckland stadiums planned
27 November 2006: Stadium earning power evaluated, but downsides skipped over
27 November 2006: Tank farm action sidelined
27 November 2006: Pricing a football ground: The uncounted future factors
24 November 2006: ARC rejects waterfront stadium unanimously
23 November 2006: Waterfront stadium gets the Auckland City vote
23 November 2006: Interim stadium injunction declined
Attribution: Council release, story written by Bob Dey for this website.