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You'll have to cough up for Eden Park, Aucklanders told
Tuesday February 20, 2007
By Bernard Orsman

Aucklanders are being asked to contribute towards a $190 million facelift for Eden Park after the Government decided to fill half the ground with temporary seats for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

After failing to get backing from Auckland for its "strong preference" of a national stadium on the waterfront, the Cabinet yesterday approved a partial facelift of Eden Park that includes 30,000 temporary seats and a new south stand.

The project will cost between $175 million and $190 million.

World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard's announcement at Eden Park was greeted with gritted teeth by Rugby New Zealand 2011 chairman Jock Hobbs and Eden Park Trust Board bosses Rob Fisher and John Alexander.

Mr Hobbs, who said in November that a lesser upgrade of Eden Park would affect the cup spectacle, said the tournament organising company supported the revised proposal, which was superior to that outlined in the original bid for the tournament.

Mr Mallard said the Cabinet had not decided how to pay for the $190 million option and would ask Auckland councils, the trust board, Rugby New Zealand 2011, the Lottery Grants Board and the ASB Trusts to chip in.

He believed it would take about two months to secure the necessary money.

The only money now committed is $20 million from the Government and $10 million from the rugby union.

Auckland City Mayor Dick Hubbard was last night guarded about committing ratepayers' money to Eden Park.

But the council has $100 million set aside for international facilities such as Eden Park and a convention centre.

Mr Hubbard said the council had yet to be approached about making a contribution but would want to see more accurate costings and have a clearer picture of how much was needed to upgrade facilities such as roads.

Mr Alexander said the board was "naturally disappointed" the Government had not decided to go ahead with its $320 million or $385 million "legacy" revamp options but was pleased Eden Park had been confirmed as the venue.

In August, Mr Alexander said spending tens of millions of dollars on temporary seating would leave no legacy to the community and would be "money down the drain".

Mr Mallard conceded the new proposal fell short of the board's vision but said spending more than $200 million would not have gone down well with ratepayers or taxpayers.

No other Auckland councils have money set aside for Eden Park and, on past experience, they are unlikely to make a contribution towards a facility in Auckland City.

Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney, whose body supported the waterfront option, said the Government's latest proposal was a case of trying to please everyone but pleasing no one.

"Diehard rugby supporters are bound to be disappointed that a full commitment hasn't been made to a $320 million-plus national stadium, while those looking for a cheaper temporary option will bemoan the extra cost," he said.

The National Party's sport and recreation spokesman, Murray McCully, said it was a relief that the Government had finally made a commitment to a venue acceptable to the International Rugby Board and that the Eden Park board and Rugby World Cup managers had apparently approved the proposal.

"This is important because it removes the remaining question mark over our ability to host the event."