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Waterfront stadium still on cards though one site ruled out
Tuesday November 7, 2006

The Government is still seriously considering building a new stadium on Auckland's waterfront though one site on the Bledisloe wharf appears to have been ruled out.

The Government has briefed National sports spokesman Murray McCully on the options, but Prime Minister Helen Clark refused to give any details when questioned in Parliament today.

The front runners are a new 60,000 seat waterfront stadium -- estimated to cost about $700 million -- or a $320 million upgrade of Eden Park.

Other options being put forward include upgrading other stadiums around the Auckland area.

There has been speculation about the Port of Auckland's Bledisloe Wharf as the site for the new stadium.

Ports of Auckland chief Geoff Vazey seemed to pour cold water on the idea today, saying it was not possible to build substitute port facilities to free up the Bledisloe site in time to build a new stadium for the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

Later in the day he issued a statement saying there were other sites on port land that the Government Rugby World Cup Stadium Group was investigating and the company was working "constructively" with the group.

"These sites would also disrupt trade but not to the same degree of difficulty with respect to the disruption of New Zealand's vital trade," Mr Vazey said.

Helen Clark also told Parliament that "attention had moved on" from the Bledisloe wharf.

Critics of the waterfront plan say a new stadium would cost too much and could never be built on time.

But Finance Minister Michael Cullen today told reporters the Government had received advice that a waterfront stadium could be completed ahead of the cup.

He would not say who had provided the advice.

"That comes from a number of sources."

There were risks around the proposal, but there were also risks in an upgrade of Eden Park. Both options were expensive.

But he said: "It may be time for New Zealand to have a New Zealand stadium."

Helen Clark said "buildability, fundability, practicality" were all issues that had to dealt with, but the option or options being considered would be made public later.

National Leader Don Brash questioned why there was secrecy over the issue, the Prime Minister replied National had been briefed and she hoped a consensus on the stadium could be found.

Helen Clark told reporters today the Government had a range of advice it was considering but she did not want to give a "running commentary" on it.

The Prime Minister told MPs she had "no view whatsoever" on what was the best option.

There were other signals around the Beehive that ministers were thinking big around the 2011 tournament.

Papers released today around the Government's economic transformation policy repeatedly refer to the opportunities provided by the tournament to develop Auckland into an internationally competitive city

"The 2011 Rugby World Cup provides an opportunity to begin transformation of the Auckland economy through leveraging off the event and creating a positive legacy for the region," one paper said.

Mr Mallard was coy when answering questions about whether this was indication the Government was leaning toward a waterfront stadium saying "You might say that but I couldn't possibly comment."