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Carlaw Park pitched as World Cup venue
Sunday November 5, 2006

Four Auckland groups are calling on Parliament to consider revamping Carlaw Park, once the spiritual home of rugby league, for the Rugby World Cup in 2011 instead of a remodelled Eden Park or a new waterfront stadium.

The proposals already on the table include $320 million to increase Eden Park's capacity by 12,500 seats to 60,000, as well as increasing the number of covered seats.

The other option, forecast to cost in the region of $700 million, would mean a brand new stadium being built on Auckland's waterfront on the Quay Street side of Bledisloe Wharf.

But Parnell Mainstreet Inc, Newmarket Business Association, Parnell Community Committee and Friends of the Domain believe rebuilding Carlaw Park is a better option.

"We've got an existing derelict downtown venue, a landowner that hasn't ruled such a proposition out, and the ability to claim a fraction of the Domain for public use.

"So as far as we're concerned it's a no-brainer," groups spokesman Cameron Brewer said.

"It's in a natural amphitheatre, a motorway runs to it and the main trunk line runs past it.

"It has all the CBD advantages the Bledisloe option has. In fact it's better because it's even more strategically located and is not to be a 35-metre high giant box on the water's edge."

The groups have written an open letter to Parliament and while it is not strictly a petition, Mr Brewer said a significant number of ratepayers were represented by the four groups.

The Government is looking at stadium options for the 2011 Rugby World Cup and is believed to favour a new stadium on the waterfront overlooking Waitemata Harbour.

Cabinet is expected to decide next week on which stadium would be the main World Cup venue.

Carlaw Park's owner, the Auckland Rugby League (ARL), has signed an agreement with property company Willis Bond to develop Carlaw Park's No 1 ground into a retirement village with 187 units.

But Mr Brewer told NZPA that ARL had not ruled out a stadium proposal for the site.

"No foundations have been laid in the ground and they'd seriously consider it if a proposition was made to them."

He said ARL had wanted to redevelop Carlaw Park as a stadium previously but was knocked back by the local authorities.

"The Auckland Rugby League in their own hearts would probably like to see, as was indicated by their proposition three years ago, it used as a sporting facility."

Carlaw Park, the longtime home of rugby league in Auckland, first had grandstands and terraces built on it in 1916 and hosted 59 tests, the last of which was more than a decade ago.

In latter years it has been used as a car park.

Mr Brewer said barriers to Carlaw Park being redeveloped were more perceived than real but it was hard to see it becoming an option ahead of Eden Park or the waterfront stadium.

"We won't be holding our breath because it has become a two-horse race," he said.

"It's disappointing that this option wasn't tested with full rigour.

"It's a lot easier than building this 13-storey high inward facing box on the waterfront, which is very contentious up here."

Eden Park development committee chairman Rob Fisher yesterday said if Auckland rugby moved to a new waterfront stadium there would be no use for Eden Park, although it would keep going until 2011.

Auckland cricket would need to move to a new ground and Eden Park would probably file for mixed-use zoning, demolishing the ground and setting up commercial and residential buildings.