Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Ministers are considering a new stadium for Auckland’s waterfront instead of an enlargement to the existing Eden Park.

Trevor Mallard, Minister for the Rugby World Cup, said: “Today a Cabinet committee has discussed the options and I hope to be able to announce a decision later this week or next.” He declined to comment any further.

According to the New Zealand Herald, the new stadium will cost around NZ$700 million compared to a $320 million upgrade of Eden Park. The Herald said that Mr Mallard, the Auckland City Council and Helen Clark, Prime Minister of NZ, all prefer a new stadium. “The decision is vital in order to deliver a world-class stadium which complements and enhances the city’s conference and major event-hosting potential, and which will also drive Auckland’s aspirations to be a world-class city,” Mr Mallard said.

Ms Clark said: “A site that is not surrounded by residential housing is an attractive proposition but the critical issue will be practical limitations.” She added: “Cabinet would not be hurried into making a decision.”

However Ports of Auckland (POA), owners of the waterfront land, said that there will not be a stadium before the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Geoff Vazey, Managing Director, said: “It simply can’t be constructed in time and the risks of pushing it through would be overwhelming. Before any land could be set aside for a stadium, the port would need an alternative site to conduct its business and it would be 2009 before building could even start. A decision made a couple of years ago would have been needed.”

Michael Cullen, Finance Minister, said that it would be possible to build the stadium, despite what critics are saying: “a number of sources have told us the stadium could be built by 2011.” No decisions have been made on the stadium proposal and he would not speculate on how the project could be financed.

The team analyzing the venues for the 2011 world cup said that it will need its report-back date extended by at least three weeks, possibly four. The delay is due to the need to assess technical and logistical matters.

Gordon Moller, Auckland architect whose company designed the Auckland Sky Tower, said that he doesn’t “believe a waterfront stadium is the way to go for the Rugby World Cup. An Eden Park upgrade makes more sense than a waterfront venue built from scratch and what is planned there is outstanding. New Zealand has a limited ability to fund infrastructure in large projects. Even Australia now has difficulty funding and filling stadiums it built for big events.”

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