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Stadium plans still hazy
By Jared Savage and Dylan Cleaver

The troubled Eden Park redevelopment has been hit by further delays and potential consent issues, raising concerns that there will be a budget blowout in an effort to get the stadium completed in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The Eden Park Trust Board and the Ministry of Economic Development are still locked in negotiations over a heads of agreement document that will determine governance and design issues ahead of the redevelopment.

The Herald on Sunday understands the agreement is still two to three weeks away, further constricting the time allowed for detailed design and construction. Architects have also struggled to fit a workable design around the Ministry's tight budget.

An industry source who has followed the project closely said "the process is just rubbish".

"The original programme meant detailed design was due to start last November with a view to finishing construction in early 2011. Now at least six month have been lost. The more you compress time, the more you risk blowing out your budget. The Government intervened in the process late after the consent application was lodged and are now trying a rearguard action to reduce the costs of an already consented scheme."

"There is no delay as there was no firm deadline for signing," Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard said. "The final design agreed and the heads of agreement between the Government and the Trust Board will be announced soon. Figures to date have been high-level estimates only - the final budget will not be set until the design has been properly costed."

Chairman of the Eden Park redevelopment committee Rob Fisher echoed the Government's stance in a statement: "The Eden Park Trust Board is pleased with the progress made to date on both the Heads of Agreement and the design for the redevelopment of Eden Park, details of which will be announced soon."

But other sources said the issues had created considerable friction between MED and the Trust Board.

In February the Government decided it would support only a pared-down version of the $385 million 'legacy' option mooted by the trust board. The Ministry's version would accommodate a new South Stand and temporary seating at the west and eastern ends of the ground.

However, with the clock ticking, the only proposal that remains consented is the $320 million stand option. Any significant changes to that - and the Ministry's changes go beyond significant - would require a new, costly and protracted consent process that would probably end up in the Environment Court.

Graeme Michie, project manager regulatory services at Auckland City Council, said he was still awaiting a heads of agreement and redesign proposal "which we're kind of hopeful of seeing soon, in the next couple of weeks".

"Really the crux of the question is whether that is within what the council had approved just before Christmas... If it's something lesser than what's been approved, and same or similar effects, then it could be covered by existing consent. All the various appeals could be sorted out in front of the Environment Court which would enable them to start, once they've got building consents, late this year or early next year."

While screens might be put in place to alleviate the extra noise and light spill that would be the result of temporary seating rather than a roofed stand, it is unclear what, if any, steps have been put in place in the MED's scheme to deal with transport and access infrastructure.

"The proposed design incorporates all the key elements of the existing resource consents, and the Crown and Trust Board are confident that consents will be secured for the new design without affecting any timelines for construction," Mallard said.