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IRB nod for Eden Park seat plan
Tuesday, 20 February 2007

The Government is adamant that the view from temporary seats to be built for the 2011 Rugby World Cup final will be top grade - and the International Rugby Board appears to agree.

Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard confirmed yesterday that a downgraded development would go ahead to bring Eden Park to the level required to host the final.

Temporary seating will be added to the top of the existing Eden Terraces and Panasonic Stand, and the South Stand will be rebuilt, incorporating new corporate boxes and facilities for players and media.

The lower-cost upgrade is expected to cost about $190 million - half the amount originally proposed by the Eden Park Trust Board to revamp the stadium.

About half of the 60,000 spectators for the final will be sitting on the "cheap seats", as some will be placed over the top of existing seating that is deemed sub-standard. More seats could be added to push the capacity past 60,000 if doing so generates extra money.

The plan was preferred to a new waterfront stadium and a more ambitious revamp of Eden Park.

Mr Mallard said the proposal was considered an improvement on the original plan as it put more temporary seating side-on to the pitch - which commanded a higher ticket price - rather than end-on. This had pleased the IRB.

"They saw it as an improvement on what was agreed after the New Zealand bid. It's a variation, but it'sa positive variation from their perspective."

An IRB delegation, expected to be headed by IRB chairman Syd Millar, will arrive in New Zealand next month to pore over the details.

The Cabinet decided yesterday to back the plans. It will confirm how much it will fund after it has talked to other groups, including the ASB Trust and the Lotteries Commission. Mr Mallard hoped Auckland ratepayers would also contribute.

Eden Park chief executive John Alexander was disappointed the Government had scuppered its original $385 million plan, but was pleased there was at least definite confirmation of Eden Park as the venue.

The trust board would look at a permanent extension to the East Stand at its own cost.

National's sport and recreation spokesman, Murray McCully, questioned the use of temporary seating as a significant component in the final package but said the most important consideration was that Rugby World Cup managers and the IRB approved.

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

Prime Minister Helen Clark told reporters this morning she was confident that the money would be found to pay for the upgrade after a newspaper report said Aucklanders would have to cough up $190 million.

"What I know is that Auckland wants to host a world class Rugby World Cup," she said.

Miss Clark said the proposal was credible and she was confident it would come together.

Contributors would talk about how to fund it.

"I think we can see a way forward on this one."

Miss Clark defended the decision to go for a cheaper Eden Park option when the Government had backed a far more expensive waterfront option.

"There's a huge difference between a New Zealand national stadium and the stadium at Eden Park."