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National backs Eden Park but unsure on waterfront
Tuesday November 14, 2006

National will back legislation to expand Eden Park, but says questions need to be answered before it will throw its weight behind a new stadium on Auckland's waterfront to host the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

National MPs discussed the Government proposals today, 10 days ahead of a deadline for a decision to be made over the preferred option.

National Leader Don Brash denied his party's decision would effectively rule out the waterfront option or that he was trying to sit on the fence.

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"National's first priority is to ensure New Zealand has the capacity to host the Rugby World Cup in 2011, but the caucus considers it would be irresponsible to support blank cheque legislation for a waterfront stadium without major risks inherent in the project being eliminated," Dr Brash said.

National left the door open for those who supported the waterfront stadium saying it would back legislation if its concerns were answered about the costings and whether it could be built in time.

If it cost $1 billion as some suspected, this would be $600 million more than Eden Park and far too expensive, he said.

Labour gave an original estimate of $500 million for the waterfront stadium, but has already admitted this was likely to grow.

National said the process and timeline undertaken by the Government was not ideal, but had responded as quickly as possible and would meet with Labour soon.

Sports Minister Trevor Mallard said National would be provided with more information and also defended the process so far.

"The Government decided to explore the waterfront alternative after it became clear - about three months ago - that the cost of an Eden Park redevelopment had gone from around $150 million when the hosting bid was won, to an estimated $320 million," Mr Mallard said.

Since then this had gone up to $385 million.

"The Government felt that since there would be public funding involved, it had to explore alternative options to ensure that the right decision is made. Timing has been tight but we have moved as rapidly as possible."

The final designs and costings for both Eden Park and the waterfront option would not be known until mid-next year.

Other parties, local bodies and the public had been briefed about the options as soon as possible.

ACT and the Greens oppose the waterfront stadium and as a result the Government would need New Zealand First and United Future to pass legislation, if National oppose it.

Ideally, Labour would like National support for the Rugby World Cup stadium.

Legislation would be needed to speed up the resource consent process and other matters in a similar way it was used for Auckland to host the America's Cup.

The Government has said it would prefer the waterfront option, but has told the Auckland City Council and Auckland Regional Council to decide by November 24.

The councils themselves are divided with some councillors actively promoting other options - such as Carlaw Park- as well.

Labour said again today that Jade Stadium in Christchurch remained the final fall back option if agreement could not be reached, or both Eden Park or the waterfront option did not make it.

As it would be quicker to upgrade the Christchurch stadium it would remain a fall back option until 2008.

Mr Mallard said those MPs promoting other options were engaging in petty politics and had to understand the waterfront or Eden Park were the only options and it was up to the two local councils to decide which was pursued.

Acting Prime Minister Michael Cullen has indicated because of the risky nature of the options both will have to developed alongside each other in case either was unable to proceed.