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Eden Park upgrade bill rockets
Thursday November 15, 2007
By Bernard Orsman

The Herald understands the Government has agreed to pay $190 million of the cost for the so-called "legacy" option - permanent rather than temporary improvements.

The Auckland City Council and Auckland Regional Council will be asked to put in $20 million each. The $40 million shortfall will come from "other" sources.

Since February, planning for Eden Park has proceeded on the basis of a $190 million upgrade to meet the International Rugby Board's requirement of a 60,000-seat stadium for the cup final in 2011.

This has involved expanding the 46,000- seat stadium with a new south stand and temporary seating.

Organisers have been exploring the desire of the Eden Park Trust Board not to have temporary seating over the Panasonic Stand and eastern terraces but to put in permanent seats instead.

It is understood the organisers are also trying to lure Auckland City Council into the deal by asking for a contribution towards a concourse around Eden Park linking access to transport facilities outside the park.

This idea is designed to get around mayor John Banks' vehement opposition to a $30 million ratepayer contribution towards the upgrade. He is prepared to commit ratepayers' money to infrastructure around the park.

Last night, Rugby World Cup Minister Clayton Cosgrove said in a statement: "The Government's position remains unchanged - the only design it will underwrite is the baseline scheme, which exceeds the original commitments made to the IRB and comprises a new South Stand and temporary facilities in the east and west.

"Any departure from the scheme agreed to by the Government with the Eden Park Trust Board would require the Crown's formal approval.

"It is the redevelopment board's responsibility to ensure that the scheme remains consentable and that additional funding is found from as many sources as reasonably possible.

"I am aware that the redevelopment board is having a series of funding discussions with other parties and that they are working through consenting issues with city council officials.

"I am confident that the redevelopment board is aware of its responsibilities and managing the design and budget within the terms of their agreement for the park's redevelopment."

Mr Banks said yesterday that it was time the Government and cup organisers put all their cards on the table and came clean on how Eden Park would be funded. He plans a meeting with the parties at the Auckland Town Hall next week.

"Once we have an unequivocal commitment from Wellington about what they are prepared to put up, then we can see whether or not the cash can be stacked to fund this project."

The mayor said he was aware of the legacy proposal but was concerned of the risk of further cost increases. Advocates of the legacy option needed to sell the project to the Government and secure funding, he said.

"The people of Auckland have given me a loud message that no money should be spent on the stadium itself and any money Auckland puts up should be committed to the economic infrastructure outside the stadium.

"I'm asking the Government to put up the necessary money from the $2.6 billion cash surplus this year to fund the Eden Park upgrade as a legacy project. It wasn't long ago the Government came to Auckland with an open cheque to fund an iconic stadium at the bottom of Queen St that was going to cost at least $1 billion."

Mr Banks said he was worried that if the council got involved with Eden Park it would be roped in to funding the ongoing operational costs forever.

Eden Park Trust Board chief executive John Alexander would not comment on the latest plans for Eden Park, except to say he would love to see a legacy option.

The board came up with two "legacy" options costing $320 million and $385 million last year before the Government dropped its proposal for a waterfront stadium and set a cap of $190 million for upgrading Eden Park.

Mr Alexander said the board was committed to making a contribution to the project, but the funding would depend on the ability to generate revenue from commercial property and what the board could borrow.

The board's contribution would be less than the $60 million touted for the $385 million option last year.