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Dollars, not time, the issue
Thursday November 16, 2006
By Bernard Orsman

Mark Binns loves big building projects. Fletcher's building boss has put up the Sky Tower, Wellington's Te Papa and Cake Tin stadium and the $2 billion Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

After 15 years heading Fletcher's construction arm, the former Auckland secondary schools fullback is itching to build a waterfront stadium or upgrade Eden Park in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. No ifs, no buts, no maybes.

"I have given the Government advice on both projects and said both projects are buildable inside the timeframe. I don't think Aucklanders should be making a decision on buildability issues," Mr Binns said yesterday.

Price, however, is another matter. Mr Binns said Aucklanders should treat the pricetags of $500 million for the waterfront and $385 million for Eden Park with a "grain of salt". Quantity surveyors could only make educated guesses at this early stage and experience told him major projects went over original budgets.

Mr Binns said either design needed to be about 80 per cent complete before any construction company could put a meaningful price on the table but said: "Eden Park is further developed in design and probably the margin of error is less." Eden Park had six months of design work to go; the waterfront nine months.

Mr Binns said there were issues with both projects. Access at Eden Park would be a problem: you could not put cranes on the playing surface and the ground would need to be kept open for matches. The waterfront had good access but Fletcher had to be on site by April to start banging the first of 2000 piles for a 6.5ha concrete-pad platform over water between three wharves. Fletchers built a similar 2ha pile-and-platform base for the America's Cup headquarters at the Viaduct.

Eden Park also had an issue with hours of work. The resource consent would probably limit hours from 7am to 6pm, 5 1/2 days a week. On the other hand, the waterfront site was available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the convoy of concrete trucks needed to pour a 600mm to 750mm concrete slab could get through relatively empty city streets at night.

Mr Binns defended the Government's decision to give Fletcher the contract, estimated at $120 million, to build the concrete platform without calling for competitive tenders. There was simply not enough time to tender the project for work to start in April next year, he said.

The contract is on a "cost reimbursable basis", which meant Fletcher would bill the Government for work as it was done.

The Government would appoint a probity officer with construction and civil engineering experience to keep an eye on the bills.

Eden Park Development Committee chairman Rob Fisher said that Eden Park's quantity surveyors, WT Partnership, had confirmed a cost estimate of $385 million for a full completion of the Eden Park seating bowl, including a significantly lower roof and 53,000 covered seats.

Mr Fisher dismissed claims there were costly issues with volcanic rock under Eden Park, saying the foundation work was well known to its design and engineering team.