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Taxpayers face $175m bill over Eden Park
28 November 2006

Taxpayers are again facing a $175 million bill as Eden Park resumes its position as frontrunner to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup final.

Sports Minister Trevor Mallard's dream of a new waterfront stadium was abandoned by the Cabinet yesterday - but the Government will not fully commit to Eden Park for another three weeks.

Issues to be thrashed out include deciding whether the proposed $385 million design to add 13,000 seats at Eden Park is justified and who will cover the current $175 million funding shortfall.

The Government is also likely to require representation on the board before putting any taxpayer money into the stadium. The venue's redevelopment is expected to cost about $385 million. North Harbour stadium is now officially the backup venue for the final.

Eden Park's more than doubled redevelopment costs had seen the Government seek to put together a waterfront alternative. Mr Mallard was unapologetic yesterday.

"I think we are in a situation where Government took a pretty brave decision to test something out," he said.

"If I ever thought you wouldn't ask people about something because you might be embarrassed over the next couple of weeks while people are making their mind up, you might as well not be in Government."

The paper he took to the Cabinet yesterday says: "resource consent, funding, governance and future economic viability issues relating to Eden Park have sufficient uncertainty that further analysis would be prudent before Eden Park is settled on as the final venue."

Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard said it was good that a decision had been made but "the bad news is that we have still got some major funding problems to sort out".

Mr Mallard blamed the demise of the waterfront plan on a lack of unity between the Auckland city and regional councils.

Auckland regional council said disruption to the port operations was not feasible, while Auckland city voted to put a new stadium in the middle of the port's operations.

Mr Mallard asked the Cabinet yesterday to consider letting officials continue working to see if a wharf stadium was possible, but it said no.

Former All Blacks captain Sir Wilson Whineray, a member of the Eden Park Trust Board, said he was pleased to have some "finality" about the choice of stadium.