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Let's go with Lotto for the Cup
Aaron Bhatnagar
Friday December 8, 2006

Local and central Government politicians have been falling over themselves to suggest big spending plans for rugby stadiums in the Auckland region, involving huge expense for the ratepayer and the taxpayer.

While plans for design and location are being pursued, funding plans have been conspicuously absent. As stewards of public money, the job of the politician is not just to table a set of artist's impressions but also a funding plan that is credible and accepted by the public.

Now that Eden Park has been selected as the venue, we consider who is going to pay for the stadium upgrades. Already, a messy and protracted open warfare has broken out between Auckland city mayor Dick Hubbard and Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee over ratepayer contributions.

But another solution doesn't involve hurting the ratepayers with huge rates increases - Sydney's Opera House is an excellent example of how a city can pay for an expensive public building using an entirely voluntary system.

The unveiling of the design about 60 years ago coincided with a Sydney Town Hall meeting to discuss fundraising proposals. After a failed attempt to fund it through private donations, a series of lotteries was proposed.

The first lottery tickets for the Opera House went on sale in November 1957.

Australian government figures show that the project cost about A$102 million ($117 million) in 1973. In today's money that is the equivalent of A$700 million Of that $102 million, $101 million was raised by lotteries and $1 million by private donations.

The ratepayers and taxpayers of Sydney and Australia were not burdened at all.

Promoting a fundraising venture through Lotto over a decade would pay for the stadium upgrades, plus other related improvements to our city for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. If the City of Sydney could do this in the 1960s, then Auckland certainly can half a century later.

Everyone wants to put on the best show in 2011. But people are rightly angered that the cost would be borne by ratepayers, many of whom may never set foot inside Eden Park.

Taxpayers throughout the country would be angry if their taxes were used to fund ambitious projects in Auckland. Using the Lotto network, raising extra capital for a stadium makes sense. It would be voluntary, it has been proved to work, and it would take the burden off those who rightly claim they shouldn't be forced to fund a sports stadium.

Aucklanders should demand that their politicians consider how the stadium proposal is funded. It would be a terrible shame to impose costs on people long after the sports circus is gone.

* The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Auckland businessman Aaron Bhatnagar is a member of the Hobson Community Board. He is not. The error occurred during subediting.