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May 1 deadline for Fletcher Building to start stadium
Saturday November 11, 2006
By Martin Johnston

Pile-drivers must start banging the first of 1900 piles into the Auckland City waterfront next May 1 for the proposed Stadium New Zealand to meet its tight construction timetable.

That is the assessment of Fletcher Building's infrastructure chief executive, Mark Binns, whose company will probably build the stadium if the Government's preferred option proceeds.

He said that if Fletchers got on to the site on April 1 and started pile-driving on May 1, the stadium could be erected on time.

"The stadium on the waterfront is buildable; it is do-able."

The Government has already picked Fletchers - without calling for competitive tenders - to build the pile and concrete-pad platform on what Mr Binns called an "open-book, cost-reimbursable, all-auditable basis".

It expects to be asked to build the stadium on top of the platform too - and is planning the construction programme and price - but this is a decision yet to be made.

Piles will be driven into the seabed and through Captain Cook and Marsden wharves, laying the foundation for the stadium reaching across to half of the western edge of the Bledisloe container terminal.

A 600mm-thick concrete slab will be set on the piles above the water across the 6.5ha site. Structural piles will then be put through holes made in the pad and driven into the seabed.

"They will take all the point load from the structure," Mr Binns said.

Half of the platform must be built before building the structure above can begin. That will take three years to build, so the halfway point on the platform must be reached by December next year.

Mr Binns said he and colleagues were surprised when they studied a picture in the Herald in September of what a waterfront stadium might look like (based on the Vector Indoor Arena nearby on Quay St).

"It's got a very complex roof structure with a significant amount of structural steel in it.

"We thought that meant the building programme would be a lot longer. When we initially looked at it, we thought it would need a bigger percentage of the platform available before you started [erecting the stadium]."

He wrote to Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard and Fletchers gave the minister some free advice about potential problems and why it would take too long to build. Later the company took a more formal role advising whether the waterfront stadium was "do-able".

Mr Binns said Fletchers had built the America's Cup headquarters at Viaduct Harbour with the same kind of pile and platform base.

The stadium was "just another major project. The issue isn't the technical difficulties so much; it's just the timeframe".

Legislation needed

* Special legislation to bypass the Resource Management Act for Eden Park upgrade and waterfront stadium, mainly because following the usual processes is expected to take too long.

* Eden Park upgrade would necessitate amendment of the Eden Park Trust Act to reflect changes in the equity held in the park.

* Ports of Auckland. For the waterfront option, changes would be needed to the Port Companies Act and the Auckland Harbour Board (Reclamation) Empowering Act.

WEIGHING UP PROS AND CONS OF COMPETING OPTIONS

The Government prefers the waterfront option over Eden Park. Here are excerpts from its comparison of the schemes.

Costs

* Eden Park - $385 million for stadium; $43 million upgrade to Sandringham Rd and the surrounding area, a link bridge and rail connections; $20 million Auckland cricket compensation.

* Waterfront - $377 million for stadium, plus up to $120 million for piling and platform; port compensation, to be negotiated with Auckland Regional Council.

Funding

* Eden Park - balance of construction costs after $40 to $50 million from Auckland City Council, $30 million from Rugby NZ 2011, $30 million sponsorship/corporate sales; $50 million from Lotteries Commission, $20 million ASB Trust grant.

* Waterfront - same, except for a greater contribution from sponsorship/corporate sales ($69 million).

Construction period

* Eden Park - earliest start, January next year; latest, September next year. Construction will take three years.

* Waterfront - Earliest (and latest) possible start of stadium construction (once platform half-finished), December 2007. Duration: three years.

Hours of construction

* Eden Park - Extended hours may be "very difficult" because of residential site. Could shorten construction period by closing park from 2007 to 2010.

* Waterfront - Work hours could be "readily escalated to 24/7 for some phases of the project".

Land negotiations

* Eden Park - not an issue.

* Waterfront - Auckland Regional Council to arrange access to Ports of Auckland wharves and construction area. Must be successfully completed by next April at latest.

Resource consents

Special legislation to bypass Resource Management Act needed for both options.

Frequency and types of use

* Eden Park - Rugby, league, one-day cricket. More likely to be useable for concerts if wrap-around design included. Trade fairs limited to 2000 patrons a day.

* Waterfront - Rugby, league, one-day cricket, concerts, trade fairs and exhibitions. Fewer restrictions and no material limits on hours or days of operation.