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Cullen says Eden Park upgrade 'not funded'
Tuesday November 14, 2006

Finance Minister Michael Cullen says there is a misperception that the Eden Park upgrade has already got funding when it has not.

The Government announced on Friday it favoured a $500 million Auckland waterfront stadium over a $320-$385 million upgrade of Eden Park as the venue for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard has given Auckland City Council (ACC) and Auckland Regional Council (ARC) two weeks to reach agreement on which site they favour.

Dr Cullen told reporters today the Eden Park upgrade was a "somewhat safer" option than the waterfront.

"But don't overestimate that. Eden Park hasn't got the money," he said.

"I am sorry to keep emphasising that but I keep reading commentary 'the Government commits money to spend on waterfront stadium' as if Eden Park is already paid for.

"Eden Park Trust Board doesn't have any funds to pay the bill for the stadium. It's going to have to look to everybody and everywhere to find that money."

Dr Cullen said both options faced similar risks.

"The key risks around some of that at least will be concrete, steel prices, labour cost escalation over a four-year period. Whichever stadium you end up building there are obviously escalation cost risks involved..."

The waterfront option had "somewhat more risks" because the design was less advanced and geotechnical work was needed before building a platform.

National MPs were to debate the issue today and before caucus this morning leader Don Brash said the party was committed to having New Zealand ready to host the 2011 Cup.

However, he felt there was not enough information yet to make a "definitive decision".

Key issues were the cost and buildability of the two options and where the money was going to come from.

"Clearly a lot of people around the country, not only in Wellington, but also in Auckland are expressing severe doubts about the wisdom of a waterfront site," he told reporters.

"We're looking to be constructive, looking to be helpful, but we won't write the Government a blank cheque."

Dr Cullen accepted National felt it did not have enough information to make up its mind.

"I think that's a reasonably sensible position for them to take at this point. Obviously that injects another risk into the equation."

Dr Cullen said Eden Park had its own risks such as the consent process.

"One thing I am quite reluctant about is that I should end up legislating later to overturn final consents process with respect to Eden Park if its not committed down that particular track."

Fletchers has been granted the job of building the platform base for the waterfront stadium -- should that option be chosen -- which Dr Cullen said was a timing issue.

He said tendering was "much more possible" for subsequent stages.