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Waterfront stadium bid 'could put World Cup hosting at risk'
Sunday October 15, 2006
By Dylan Cleaver

Concern has been raised that by pursuing a waterfront stadium option, New Zealand is putting at risk its hosting rights for the 2011 World Cup.

Auckland City has indicated it would prefer a stadium situated on the Marsden, Captain Cook and Queen wharves in downtown Auckland. It is also thought that Minister for Economic Development (MED) Trevor Mallard and Prime Minister Helen Clark prefer this 'legacy' option over a redeveloped Eden Park, but sources spoken to by the Herald on Sunday said it was unrealistic for a stadium to be built in time. "We don't have the resources to build it in time," said one.

MED was to report back to Cabinet on Friday but the decision has been deferred while, it is understood, evidence is gathered to support a waterfront option. However the Herald on Sunday has learnt a constructability study has already been carried out by Fletcher Construction (FCC) and its findings made available to key parties.

FCC chief executive Mark Binns said in an email: "We have provided some thoughts on the construction issues involved but it is for the parties concerned to weigh up the advice they have received and make a decision when they have considered all the relevant issues."

Binns added that it would not be appropriate to comment on the findings but a source said the report stated that a 60,000-seat stadium could not be built and trialled in time for rugby's showpiece event.

While Eden Park Development Committee chairman Rob Fisher, who met with Mallard on Friday, has welcomed "robust" debate regarding arious options, including North Harbour Stadium, it is clear he doesn't believe time is on anybody's side.

"We look forward to, within the next three to four weeks, a prompt decision from Government, to ensure the critical path for delivery is not compromised," Fisher said. "While we are confident that Eden Park will meet the IRB's [International Rugby Board] requirements, can be built in time for the Cup... it remains to be seen whether a waterfront option is viable."

The IRB do not care where the final is played so long as it is played at a world-class venue they consider an appropriate backdrop. Where it would get embarrassing, and potentially damaging, is if Rugby World Cup New Zealand 2001 Limited had to go back to the IRB and tell them the final would be played at a makeshift Eden Park with capacity as low as 55,000.

When the NZRU presented IRB with a bid document, it had that temporary option along with the new south and east stand.

The IRB unequivocably told them to build the new stand. The IRB seem sure to have a contingency plan should New Zealand fail to live up to its promises. Enter Australia.

The MED report should have gone in front of Cabinet last week but it has been deferred while, it is understood, the Government collects more information on the waterfront option. Mallard said: "The project team has asked for more time to complete an assessment of technical and logistical matters. This is a crucial decision for Auckland that will leave a lasting legacy for the city, and also involve substantial investment."

But one source said even considering a waterfront option was dicing with disaster. "To finish it in time to trial it before the event they'd need to start it this year. That's not going to happen because they don't have land, they don't have an act of parliament in place and they don't have a design.

"It's politicians thinking it would be nice to have a stadium on the water without thinking [about the consequences]."