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Labour call in Nats to boost waterfront support
Wednesday November 8, 2006
By Audrey Young

The National Party may hold the key to whether the Auckland waterfront stadium for the 2011 Rugby World Cup gets the parliamentary support needed to approve it.

Sport Minister Trevor Mallard briefed National Party sport spokesman Murray McCully yesterday.

"We're not going to give them any blank cheques, but we are looking to assist in meeting the requirements to host the event," Mr McCully said later.

National's criteria for approving the project are similar to Labour's - it will need to be satisfied that a wharf stadium can be built in time.

Then the real negotiation will be over the funding arrangements and how much of the stadium cost is paid for by a regional bed or airport tax and how much from the national surplus.

The Government says the stadium will cost about $500 million, although that is considered conservative.

If the stadium is approved, the Government would pay most of that, then recover the cost through a regional tax.

It has offered only $20 million to a proposed $320 million upgrade of Auckland's home of test rugby, Eden Park, but the park's trust board has asked for $75 million more.

Labour is seeking support from National and its support parties New Zealand First and United Future.

It would need enough votes in Parliament to approve resource consents for a waterfront stadium by April, to approve a way of collecting the regional tax, and to address the issue of what happens to the Eden Park Trust Board, a statutory body.

National could well support the introduction of the legislation before funding arrangements were agreed.

The Government has told the Eden Park Trust Board the point of no return for the waterfront stadium proposal would be May. If it hadn't happened by then, Eden Park would be the preferred option.

It is not surprising that the Government is seeking support from National on such a major issue.

Mr Mallard and Mr McCully gave a bipartisan presentation to the World Cup bid committee before the election last year.

And without National, Labour cannot be guaranteed of backing from the smaller support parties.

New Zealand First leader and Racing Minister Winston Peters was in Australia for the Melbourne Cup yesterday, and his spokesman did not know the party's position.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said: "Why wasn't this all thought through at the time the original bid was being made for the World Cup?"

The Greens and Act oppose the stadium, and the Maori Party has not made up its mind.

Mr McCully said last night he understood why the Government wanted National's support for its proposal "because that would guarantee its completion".

" But it does mean that we would need to be very comfortable with what is being proposed."

More details emerged yesterday about the preferred stadium proposal over Marsden wharf between Captain Cook and Bledisloe wharves.

Ports of Auckland chief executive Geoff Vazey, who started the day saying a Bledisloe Wharf stadium was "not doable", later issued a statement describing the Bledisloe/Marsden/Captain Cook site was the least disruptive to the port "but still would be very disruptive".