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D-day is looming on whether Auckland gets a brand new waterfront stadium
Tuesday November 21, 2006
By Fran O'Sullivan

D-day is looming on whether Auckland gets a brand new waterfront stadium in time for Rugby World Cup 2011 _ or opts for an enlarged Eden Park.

The town is talking about nothing else.

But most of the talk has been about whether Economic Development Minister Trevor Mallard's preferred option _ a stadium across two wharves at the bottom of Quay Street _ would be a monumental eyesore or a fillip to the city's pride.

The reality is that right now the city-region's infrastructure cannot support either the demands or opportunities associated with major international events.

The Metro Project has raised strong concerns at Auckland's lack of preparedness to host Rugby World Cup 2011. Many of the business people associated with the project want a major body tasked to drive the project forward.

Auckland City Council mayor Dick Hubbard _ who has been campaigning strenuously for the Mallard proposal _ is certain it will be the key to unlocking further investment right along the CBD waterfront.

At the Auckland Regional Council, where chairman Mike Lee holds sway, it's a different story.

Lee cautions the ARC has to ensure that business is not disrupted if the Ports of Auckland (which sits within ARC's ultimate ownership) has to shift operations further along the harbour to make way for the ACC's favoured Bledisloe wharf option instead of the Marsden wharf option currently on the table.

Auckland's business power-brokers are coming off the fence as decision time looms.

Deloitte chair Nick Main _ who is also co-chair of the Metro Project champions _ supports the waterfront stadium option ("it could be quite spectacular").

But Main's support comes with provisos.

He wants to be sure the costings stack up, that the project could be delivered on time for the 2011 series and to investigate what flexibility there is to protect business interests during development.

Westpac chief executive Ann Sherry is happy to go with either option.

She says "paralysis by analysis" will just slow things down and jeopardise what option is ultimately chosen. "It's critical a decision made," says Sherry. "That's what we elect governments to do."

Craig Norgate _ formerly on the NZ Rugby Football Union board _ has offices in the Quay Street directly opposite the wharves where Mallard hopes the National Stadium will be built. Norgate has also got a box at Eden Park.

But he's not perturbed at losing his views. "We've got to go for it. What other iconic projects are on the drawing board?"

Mallard has thrown the decision to "Auckland to make". But in reality most business people believe it's already a fait accompli.

Cabinet papers disclose the Government is developing a 'legacy prospectus' for the Rugby World Cup

which it hopes to bring together in discussions with Auckland regional leaders.

This would involve a high degree of coordination between central and local government on event management, funding issues and the infrastructure legacy the series is expected to generate.

Auckland Regional Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett says the Government is right to focus on the legacy.

"We need to swing debate around to setting goal for Auckland to host 150 world-class events every year and to build a bold, innovative and attractive stadium that serves that vision."

Barnett says construction of an iconic facility is desperately needed to help Auckland position itself on a global stage and compete for major global events and long stay visitors with other international cities.

"With our own Pacific culture and traditions it's about coming up with a design that reflects the new thinking about what Auckland is going to be through the rest of the century."

Barnett _ who also chairs the Metro Project _ says the stadium needs to be linked with the delivery of growth nodes across the region and corridors to get to areas like Ponsonby, Parnell, the West Coast and North Shore beaches, the wine trail and many other attractive places that make the whole region a fantastic place to visit.

"Other cities have got it right with stadiums and iconic waterfront architecture _ Melbourne and Sydney are stand out examples in our part of the world.

"But visiting those cities is not just about their fabulous stadium and architecture _ it is the whole visitor experience and that's the debate we need to have in coming to our decision this week."

He noted plans for a new 67-story high-rise apartment block that was designed on a proposition that it will be here for 500 years.

"Imagine Auckland 100-to-150 years from now. What is the architecture we want for a city of the future?

"What is the role we want to be playing in the world economy as we move forward?"