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Public gagged at crucial meeting
Wednesday November 22, 2006
By Mathew Dearnaley

Opponents of the waterfront stadium are furious that Auckland City Mayor Dick Hubbard will not allow a public forum at tomorrow night's crucial council meeting on where the 2011 Rugby World Cup final should be played.

Mr Hubbard said last night he had brought forward the stadium debate from number 14 on the order paper for the council's monthly meeting, to make it the first item at the session's 6pm kickoff.

The original schedule would have put it after debate on whether councillors should overturn their transport committee's opposition to Transit NZ's western ring route tolling plan.

"We have brought it up to number one because of the public and media interest - it would have been unfair to keep everyone waiting," the mayor said of the stadium debate.

But he confirmed using his discretion under standing orders not to allow a public forum, for fear that the meeting would run into Friday morning, leading to potentially "bad decisions".

That has infuriated City Vision councillor Cathy Casey, who said the council should stay up all night if necessary to debate such an important public issue and not allow the mayor to "usurp the democratic process".

She said presentations which individuals and groups had been invited to make today and tomorrow on the stadium were no substitute for allowing views to be heard at an open meeting.

Mr Hubbard said Parliament made its decisions without hearing speeches from the public, apart from through select committees, and he was encouraging councillors to listen to the views of as many Aucklanders as possible before tomorrow night.

Sports fan Douglas Sadlier said he understood Act leader Rodney Hide had sponsored leaflets advertising a protest rally he was organising in Aotea Square at 12.30pm tomorrow against the waterfront site, but said he had no links with the rival stadium bid for Eden Park.