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Double rebuff for wharf plan
Monday November 13, 2006
By Bernard Orsman

Auckland's proposed waterfront stadium has been dealt a double blow by city architectural guardians and hundreds of residents.

The architects have condemned the project, and the Aucklanders have voted "no" to the idea in a Herald poll.

Just on 75 per cent of the 2400 valid responses to a Herald question, "yes or no to a waterfront stadium?" say no.

This does not mean all support the other Rugby World Cup 2011 stadium option of upgrading Eden Park but it is a huge boost for the city's traditional home of rugby.

Another difficulty for the Government and other supporters of a waterfront stadium is that four senior members of the Auckland City Council's urban design panel - all architectural and urban design leaders who assess major new public buildings - have come out strongly against the waterfront option.

Last week, nine city councillors wrote to Prime Minister Helen Clark urging her to consider Carlaw Park as a stadium site.

Yesterday, urban design panel member Diane Brand, deputy head of the Auckland University's School of Architecture, said that if the waterfront plan came to the panel, "I think it would be knocked back".

A stadium was not the sort of building for a "precious" asset like the waterfront, and would cancel out a lot of good work by the council to protect harbour views from Britomart, Dr Brand said.

The Government plans to bypass the panel and normal resource consent steps with special legislation.

On Friday, Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard said the Government had a "strong preference" for a national stadium on the waterfront but the Government could not proceed without Auckland's backing.

He has given the Auckland city and regional councils until November 24 to agree on their preference.

He said if they could not agree, Jade Stadium in Christchurch would become the main Rugby World Cup venue.

Gordon Moller, co-convener of the urban design panel and the architect of Auckland's Sky Tower, said: "Let's stop these crazy ideas of wrecking the waterfront."

Another panel member, Professor John Hunt, of the university's School of Architecture, said the entire waterfront was a no-go for a stadium.

The fourth panel member is Associate Professor Clinton Bird, who backs Eden Park.

"To blight the waterfront with something nine to 12 storeys high, and what I also think is vastly underestimated in terms of cost, is outrageous."

Auckland City Mayor Dick Hubbard last night made no apologies for backing the waterfront plan.

He said it was early days when it came to public feedback, and he welcomed a robust debate about the merits of the two proposals.

Mr Hubbard agreed some waterfront views would be blocked but said the current views were not great, the site was blocked now and the stadium would open up the area to the public.

Auckland City's first "urban design champion", Ludo Campbell-Reid, said he was excited by the waterfront location."I'm just trying to work on the exact location, the exact design and the urban design is critical to that."

City councillor Penny Sefuiva compared the waterfront stadium with the original Britomart proposal, saying she was appalled at the latest monstrous development separating Auckland from its waterfront.

She is one of the nine councillors supporting Carlaw Park.

Another, Glenda Fryer, said that in the light of Mr Mallard's announcement on Friday it was late to consider the former rugby league headquarters.

Two of the nine - Action Hobson's Richard Simpson and Christine Caughey - plus Act leader and Epsom MP Rodney Hide, held a press conference in Parnell yesterday to push for Carlaw Park.

Mr Simpson said there was no better site than Carlaw Park, and Christine Caughey said it could transform "the armpit of the city".

The Carlaw Park supporters have come up with two models - the 63,000-seat Saitama Soccer Stadium in Japan and the 30,000-seat Braga Municipal Stadium in Portugal.

A city council evaluation of the Carlaw Park site last month said a 60,000-seat stadium would require 3ha from the Domain. Hundreds of trees would have to be felled, and volcanic landscape would have to be altered.

Mr Hide said he would support using the Public Works Act to confiscate private land at Carlaw Park.

The Government had rejected Carlaw Park because it was too small and was privately owned.