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Stadiums queue for Eden Park treatment
29 November 2006

As the row over taxpayer funding for Eden Park's expansion continues, the Government is bracing for requests to assist in the improvement of other stadiums vying to host Rugby World Cup matches in 2011.

While the Government and Auckland continue to eyeball each over an estimated $175 million needed to develop the Auckland venue, Christchurch and Dunedin are also preparing to make funding requests.

Formal requests from Otago have yet to be made, but Christchurch's Jade Stadium is facing a $20 million shortfall for the $60 million needed to replace its aging east stand.

The trust planning to develop Carisbrook in Dunedin will know how much money it needs when plans for what could be a 40,000-seat stadium are unveiled in February.

Carisbrook Stadium Trust's chairman, Dunedin businessman Malcolm Farry, said yesterday it was only fair for government money to be spread around Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.

"If you're doing it for one, then that at least makes a case for doing it for the other two."

Wellington's Westpac stadium, which hopes to snaffle five or six World Cup matches and a quarterfinal or semifinal, plans $5 million to $7 million in self-funded upgrades before the Cup.

Jade Stadium, which will borrow $40 million and repay it from revenue, expects Christchurch City Council will be able to help the Government meet the $20 million shortfall.

The Carisbrook Stadium Trust plans a joint enterprise with Otago University, and Otago Regional Council has been providing working capital to get plans off the ground.

Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard would not comment on the stadium funding issue yesterday. A spokeswoman said funding discussions with Eden Park have been handed over to the Economic Development Ministry.

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Auckland Regional Council to stump up with some money for a venue, with Eden Park Trust Board and Auckland City Council calling for a hefty contribution.

Regional council chairman Mike Lee said regional ratepayers should not bear the costs alone, however. If the Government had money for the now defunct waterfront stadium option, then it should have money for Eden Park.

Transport, specifically electrification of the train system in time for the Cup, was a priority for the regional council, and the council would split the $300 million cost of that with the Government.

"Trains are assets Aucklanders will use every day of the week," Mr Lee said.

The regional council would be better placed to contribute to the stadium if the Government were willing to open up a revenue stream, preferably an airport departure tax.

Mr Mallard has indicated that he is not willing to do that.

The Government is due to make a decision on electric trains about the same time funding decisions are made for Eden Park.

The $175 million shortfall on Eden Park's $385 million refurbishment assumes Auckland City Council would contribute $50 million for a stadium. Mayor Dick Hubbard said the council needed more information about risks before making a commitment.

"Ratepayers are concerned that Auckland Regional Council won't be lifting a finger when the city council is being pressured to make a direct contribution," Mr Hubbard said.