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Emails reveal friction over Mallard's vision of stadium
Thursday February 08, 2007
By Paula Oliver

Fresh documents have laid bare the friction that built up over Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard's vision for a waterfront stadium in Auckland.

Mr Mallard's pursuit of the waterfront option triggered a deluge of letters and emails, among them a blunt assessment from Ports of Auckland managing director Geoff Vazey that the project could not be completed on time and work on it was "superficial".

Ports of Auckland's agreement to the stadium project was crucial because some of the company's land would have been required to house the arena.

But Mr Vazey made it clear as early as September 15 last year that he was not impressed with what was going on.

In an email exchange released under the Official Information Act yesterday, Mr Vazey said one particular waterfront location "still seriously damages NZ's trading with the world".

And his concern was not quelled by November 3, when he wrote a terse letter to Mr Mallard.

"The work we have seen so far on this latest site is very superficial, and does not look to be taking the facts around transitional port operational impacts into proper consideration," Mr Vazey wrote.


He said the project could not be completed in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Mr Mallard was clearly in disagreement, scribbling "rubbish" on to Mr Vazey's letter.

The raft of documents released yesterday reveal that from the outset the waterfront option was considered risky, but Mr Mallard pressed on and found some support for his project.

Fletcher Building infrastructure chief executive Mark Binns was an early doubter, expressing surprise about the waterfront proposal in an email to Auckland Issues Minister Judith Tizard on September 13.

Mr Binns said there was likely to be "massive problems" with pursuing another site at "this late stage".

The waterfront site would take "significantly longer" and posed a number of construction problems that would be "very costly" to overcome, Mr Binns wrote.

Just two days later he wrote to Mr Mallard to say that delivering a 60,000-seat stadium on the waterfront by 2011 "is not realistically achievable".

However, Fletcher Building later proposed a construction schedule to build the stadium on time, changing its position.

While Mr Mallard was trying to win over Ports of Auckland, the city's council was being told by him that the waterfront was a "viable option".

In a letter to Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard on November 9, Mr Mallard offered a briefing on the proposal and suggested the project could be done.

He gave the same upbeat assessment to the Auckland Regional Council's chairman Mike Lee in a letter dated November 9.

Friction also appears to have built up as worried representatives of Eden Park sought to find out what was going on with the waterfront stadium option.

A letter from Eden Park Development Committee chairman Rob Fisher to Mr Mallard on September 8 complained that the investigation of a waterfront option was "a major distraction and somewhat demotivating".

The specifics of how Eden Park's redevelopment will be funded remain unclear, with the Government waiting for a review of upgrade options.

Mr Mallard's office said this week that the review - being carried out by international stadium experts - involved an analysis of temporary and permanent seating arrangements.

It was expected to be completed in the next "few weeks", he said.