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No chance of waterfront stadium by 2011 - Ports of Auckland
Tuesday November 7, 2006
By Bernard Orsman and Newstalk ZB

Ports of Auckland says there is no way a new stadium could be built on the city's waterfront in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Managing director Geoff Vazey said today the timeframe was too tight and the proposal was too risky.

Ports of Auckland owns Bledisloe Wharf where the proposed stadium, believed to be favoured by the Government, would be built.

Mr Vazey told Newstalk ZB today: "A rugby stadium on Bledisloe simply is not do-able in time.

"The risks are overwhelming and I don't think you can go to the IRB and say. 'Hey, can we put the event back a bit?'"

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His warning comes after it was suggested the proposed stadium could be partly paid for by bed and airport taxes under a plan aimed at easing the burden on Auckland residents already hit by soaring rates.

The Government is about to sound out supporting parties over legislation to introduce bed and airport taxes, which would levy travellers and people staying at hotels and motels to help pay for a $500 million stadium to host 2011 Rugby World Cup games.

It is understood the Government believes it can raise about $450 million from the taxes, naming rights, sponsorship and the sale of corporate boxes.

Auckland City Council would be asked for about $50 million.

That would cost each of Auckland City's 138,000 household ratepayers about $182 and the 24,000 business ratepayers about $1040 between now and 2011.

If the council made a $75 million grant to Eden Park, it would cost about $270 for households and about $1560 for each business.

The plan, which one source called a "Christmas present for Auckland", is in stark contrast to the Eden Park Trust Board's plans for a $320 million upgrade of the park.

It wants $150 million from Auckland ratepayers and $95 million from taxpayers.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said yesterday the Cabinet had a "good thrash around of the issues" and would get back to the stadium in the course of the week.

"We've still got to decide what the way ahead is," she said.

She would not comment on taxes or levies to pay for a stadium but said any proposal would need more money than councils or users could provide.


Helen Clark and Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard strongly support a waterfront stadium in preference to upgrading Eden Park.

It is understood the preferred waterfront site is over Marsden Wharf between Captain Cook and Bledisloe wharves. This over-the-water option would use less land on Bledisloe Wharf, the country's third-busiest container terminal.

A paper considered by the Auckland City Council said a stadium on this site had a "significant risk of not being completed in time", required legislation to be passed by next month and would involve up to a year of driving 200 piles into the seabed.

The council also revealed the funding application and business plan from the Eden Park Trust Board, which shows that the board plans to obtain $65 million of the $320 million needed to boost capacity to 60,000 seats from naming rights, grants and debt.

The Government has committed $20 million and the Rugby Union $10 million.

The board has proposed meeting the $225 million shortfall with grants of $75 million each from Auckland City, other councils in the region and the Government.

Auckland City Mayor Dick Hubbard said $75 million was "politically unacceptable".

He told National Radio today it would be more acceptable to put ratepayers money into a waterfront stadium which would have "immense benefits" for Auckland.

The Auckland City Council has set aside $100 million in its 10-year budget for international facilities such as a stadium or convention centre.

North Shore Mayor George Wood said his council took on $30 million of debt from North Harbour Stadium in August, and it was highly unlikely to want to contribute to Eden Park.

Waitakere City deputy mayor Carolynne Stone was also unenthusiastic, saying: "We are barely affording our own house, let alone going out and buying a Mercedes."

Household rates rose between 4.2 per cent and 13.4 per cent in the region this year and in Auckland City are forecast to rise 9 per cent next year.

Stamford Plaza Auckland general manager Peter Gee said last night that it was unfair for the tourism industry to foot the bill.

"From a funding perspective, everybody who is going to use the stadium and benefit from it should be looking at paying for it."