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Doubts cast on waterfront stadium

Published: 11:01AM Tuesday November 07, 2006 Source: Newstalk ZB/One News

Ports of Auckland says there simply will not be a stadium on the Auckland waterfront before New Zealand hosts the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

POAL owns the land in question and managing director Geoff Vazey says it simply cannot be constructed in time.  He says the risks of pushing it through would be overwhelming.

He says before any land could be set aside for a stadium, the port would need an alternative site to conduct its business and it would be 2009 before building could even start.

Vazey says if the idea had come up a few years ago it may have been viable.

He says if other sites on the waterfront are proposed the port will work constructively to see if they are viable.

New Zealand has to face up to its inability to fund huge projects according to a prominent Auckland architect.

Gordon Moller, whose company designed the Skytower, does not believe a waterfront stadium is the way to go for the Rugby World Cup.  He says an Eden Park upgrade makes more sense than a waterfront venue built from scratch and what is planned there is outstanding.

He says a lot of work has been done on getting people in and out of the venue.

Moller says New Zealand has a limited ability to fund infrastructure in large projects.  He says even Australia now has difficulty funding and filling stadiums it built for big events.

However the government is now considering a bed tax already common overseas to help fund the stadium.

"What it means is you're getting the money from visitors and you're not hitting the ratepayer for more funding," Michael Barnett of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce says.

Eden Park's $320 million development was set to cost the Auckland region's ratepayers $150 million.

Now the government will pay for most of the $500 million proposal, banking on growth in the tourism dollar.

But some say it is not fair that the accommodation sector should bare the brunt of funding for Auckland.

New Zealanders flying could also find their ticket being clipped.  Auckland International Airport confirms an airport tax is also proposed.

Debate moves to parliament

While the stadium debate in Auckland focuses on the where, when and how, in Wellington the wheeling and dealing has begun in parliament.
Speculation is rife that a new 60,000-seat $700 million waterfront option will get government approval over an expensive revamp of Eden Park, but on Monday Prime Minister Helen Clark said Cabinet would not be hurried into making a decision.

However in response to questions in parliament on Tuesday afternoon, she said things had moved on from the Bledisloe Wharf location.

Clark admits a site that is not surrounded by residential housing is an attractive proposition but the critical issue will be practical limitations.

Eden Park officials are now cautiously optimistic that it is again the front runner to host the Rugby World Cup.

But Finance Minister Michael Cullen is rejecting claims it is impossible to build a waterfront stadium in Auckland in time, saying that is not the technical advice they have received.

He says a number of sources have told them the stadium could be built by 2011.  He says no decisions have been made on the proposal and he would not speculate on how the project could be financed.

Labour has kept the National Party briefed on its plans, but is being criticised for leaving its own support parties in the dark.

Clark told parliament on Tuesday that Sports Minister Trevor Mallard has held meetings with his National counterpart Murray McCully on the options being explored.

She says Mallard has also raised the matter with New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

"I'm concerned that we're being put in a position where we may need to make some quick calls before that information is available," United Future leader Peter Dunne says.

Other parties also feel left out. 

"Mallard and Helen Clark seem to be doing this entirely on their own.  I don't think they've actually consulted and talked with anyone," Act leader Rodney Hyde says.

Cabinet is expected to sign off on the stadium location on Wednesday.