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Waterfront stadium may be step closer
Friday October 13, 2006
By Bernard Orsman

The Government's strong desire for a national stadium on Auckland's waterfront got a boost last night when the Auckland City Council was thought to have voted behind closed doors to throw its support behind an option spanning Captain Cook and Marsden wharves.

The waterfront option potentially got another boost from Wednesday's announcement that the Ports of Auckland and Tauranga are in merger talks. The world's largest container shipping line, Maersk, will decide in the next few days which of the two ports will get its exclusive business. Picking Tauranga could free up space on ports land in Auckland for a stadium.

One suggestion is that the Government would smooth anti-competitive concerns about the merger in return for the ports companies facilitating a waterfront option. Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard refused to comment.

Last night, Ports of Auckland chief executive Geoff Vazey said he was open to the suggestion.

"If there was some way of continuing to handle the trade for the good of the country, which will be in their [Government's] interests as well, and accommodate a stadium, certainly that option gets looked at. The elements of that are all in play but we haven't had anybody come to us and say 'how about we do it this way'?" .

However, he sounded a warning about building a stadium on the 14ha Bledisloe Wharf, the third busiest container terminal in the country; and over the water between Captain Cook and Marsden wharves, used for importing used cars.

Mr Vazey said losing the Maersk contract to Tauranga would result in the loss of 50,000 to 70,000 containers a year - the same figure as the 8 per cent growth in containers a year at Auckland: "If they go it just stalls our growth for one year."

The long-term interests of the ports also needed to be considered, he said. About 1.25 million containers crossed the two ports and this was set to double in 10 years and reach five million containers in 20 years.

A decision on where to build a 60,000-seat stadium in Auckland as the premier venue for the 2011 Rugby World Cup is due to be made by the Cabinet this month. Prime Minister Helen Clark and Mr Mallard strongly support a waterfront stadium, to showcase New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup, and drive Auckland's aspirations to be a world-class city.

However, the decision to build a waterfront stadium from scratch or redevelop Eden Park from 47,500 to 60,000 seats will come down to cost and practical issues, such as building a new stadium in the tight timeframe. A figure of $600 million has been mooted for a stadium over the water.

If the waterfront is not a goer, the Government and Auckland City will support Eden Park.

About 10 options have been considered by the Government and Auckland City, including North Harbour Stadium, Mt Smart Stadium, at the Tank Farm on the waterfront, Ellerslie, Avondale and Alexandra Park racecourses, and Victoria Park.