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Downtown Stadium is a downright need

But a smart strategy will not tax Auckland ratepayers

Phil Goff – Downtown Stadium-Phil Goff Web

Auckland’s biggest priority is dealing with traffic congestion.

We are headed towards gridlock and it is causing huge frustration as well as costing us billions of dollars in lost productivity.

That means addressing the problem will be the first call on our resources.

In due course, however, we have to decide about a new Sports and Events Stadium for Auckland.  Regional Facilities Auckland says that in 15 years from now, major expenditure of around $250 million will be needed on Eden Park.

In my view, spending that money on Eden Park would be a waste of expenditure.

Eden Park is in the middle of a residential area, with severe restrictions on using it at nights or for concerts.  It is far away from city facilities like cafes, restaurants and bars that patrons want access before and after matches and events.

Surrounding streets are narrow and congested and hence transport is a problem.

Auckland had the opportunity to relocate the stadium before the 2011 Rugby World Cup with government meeting the costs but the City turned it down.

Strategic location

My preference is for a Downtown Stadium close to facilities and transport networks.  Around Vector Arena would be ideal but other sites closer to the waterfront such as the Tank Farm should also be investigated.

Auckland is a global city and it needs a world class venue.

The questions are where to locate it and how it will be funded.  Even though a final decision may be a decade or more away, we need to start thinking about these things now.  We should be getting ‘Regional Facilities Auckland’ to report on them within the next year.

For the Stadium to be economical, it should cater for a range of sports and activities and be in constant use. Eden Park by contrast does not, and is not even able to put money aside to cover depreciation.

It should be bailed out financially.

Sports and Events

The new Stadium needs to be used by Rugby, League and Football. All have expressed an interest in doing so.  It needs to be available for concerts and events.  It should have convention and meeting facilities.

Funding it cannot be a burden on the ratepayer.  There are already too many demands on our rates. Private entrepreneurs like Eric Watson from the Warriors, Vodafone, and Stephen Barclay from the America Cup, have all offered to contribute to the capital costs of building a new Stadium.

Naming rights can be sold. Sporting codes which use it can make a contribution.

If Eden Park is sold, that could by itself bring in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Central Government could also come to the party, especially if it wants Auckland to host events like a future Rugby World Cup or even Commonwealth Games (as it did in 2006).

As a City which will grow to accommodate 2.5 million people in the coming decades, we need to be aspirational and to plan ahead.  We are, however, not about to become big spenders at the ratepayers’ expense.

Thinking smart and not just big is a critical requirement.

We need to start the process of working through our options now when we have the time. That way we can avoid the situation we faced over the Rugby World Cup 2011 where the decision-making time frame was too short and the wrong decision was taken.

Phil Goff is former Foreign Affairs, Trade and Justice Minister and has been Member of Parliament for 35 years. Elected from Mt Roskill, he is today Labour Party’s Spokesperson for Defence and Ethnic Communities. Mr Goff is a Mayoral candidate for Auckland, postal voting for which will be held from September 16 to mid-day on October 8, 2016. Indian Newslink will bring you issues that confront our major cities and opinions of our readers and experts in handling them.

 

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