Brian Rudman 's Opinion

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Christchurch could use Cloud, with a waka thrown in

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There will be a Rugby World Cup fanzone and events village in Hagley Park. Photo / Sarah Ivey
There will be a Rugby World Cup fanzone and events village in Hagley Park. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Back in April, when Christchurch was told it would be losing its three Rugby World Cup matches to Auckland, the quake-ravaged city seemed to take the disappointment remarkably well. Now it's got the last laugh.

Not only did Auckland ratepayers have to find an extra $3.17 million to beef up facilities at North Harbour Stadium and the like to handle the extra games, it now transpires we're also having to subsidise rugby fans in Christchurch. Local newspaper the Press reports that part of the $1.5 million the Auckland Council unanimously donated to the Christchurch Earthquake Mayoral Relief Fund after the February 22 quake is to be used to fund a Rugby World Cup fanzone and events village in Hagley Park.

While no one wants to begrudge the poor footy fans of Christchurch their fanzone, using cash donated for the mayoral relief fund for a temporary rugby booze barn does seem to stretch the boundaries of the fund's statement of intent.

The council website says it was established "to provide money for any charitable, benevolent, philanthropic or cultural purposes related to the adverse effects of the September 2010 and February 22, 2011 earthquakes". It goes on to emphasise the fund "will provide support for any activities or works required as a result of the earthquakes".

Yet the need for fanzones is by order of the International Rugby Board, part of a network of such meeting places to be established throughout the country and committed to long before the natural calamities occurred.

The rest of the $1.5 million Auckland gift will be used on repairs to earthquake-hit public spaces and parks. Presents on the sheets and towels end of the wedding-gift scale. Aucklanders are paying for the replacement of trees in Hagley Park and South New Brighton Park, repair of playground surfaces damaged by liquefaction and "restoration work on the Port Hills".

Mayor Bob Parker calls it an "amazing gesture". Another gesture - also world cup-related - which the Christchurch mayor seems to have gone cold on is the offer from the Waterfront Auckland chairman, Bob Harvey, to gift Christchurch the Queens Wharf "Cloud" (I won't call it the Slug today, for fear of turning the folk of Christchurch off it) once the rugby circus ends.

Six weeks ago, when Mr Harvey made the offer to move the $9.3 million, purpose-built Auckland "party central" to Christchurch, Mr Parker said it was inspired. "I'm taking the idea very seriously. It could be the solution for some of the issues we are faced with." He said Christchurch was short of covered public spaces and it could be erected in Hagley Park.

That was late June. But now the mayor's eye has been seduced by famous Japanese architect Shigeru Ban's proposal for a $4 million temporary cardboard cathedral.

With the Christchurch earthquakes' repair bill running into the billions, it's perhaps understandable that the mayor and Dean Peter Beck seem to regard splashing out $4 million on a temporary cathedral, built out of cardboard rolls and shipping containers, as loose change well spent.

Maybe they're right. But out here in donor land, one wonders if there aren't better ways to spend the gifted cash than on a place of temporary worship - however famous its architect.

Dean Beck wants the 700-seater A-frame to be completed by the first anniversary of the February quake, telling the Press it would attract visitors to the central city and be "a symbol of hope... a thing of beauty in the midst of all the desolation". He also says it could be used by orchestras, other churches and community groups.

If it were me, I'd be spending any spare cash getting people off portable toilets and into decent housing, not on symbols. Better to keep famous international architects in reserve for when I got round to building a permanent new cathedral/meeting space/concert hall.

Dean Beck wants the cardboard roll cathedral in business by February 22. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Trust, a fund run from Prime Minister John Key's office, has already granted $50,000 for a feasibility study into the project. A much cheaper option would be to take the Government-funded white elephant Cloud off Queens Wharf once the tournament is over.

Mr Ban says his cardboard structure will take three months to build and seat 700 people. The Cloud can be put up in as little as six weeks, can be configured in various ways, and its 4455sq m interior has room for 5960 people. Enough for worshippers of every religion.

And if the Slug - sorry, Cloud - is not suitably cathedral-like for the God-fearing southerners, I suspect Ngati Whatua would be happy to throw in a spectacular waka - which, when available, will have just 11 days on the clock.

In a city of liquefaction and suddenly erupting springs, what more thoughtful gift than that? And as a refuge for the faithful, what better symbolism than a great Ark?

- NZ Herald

Brian Rudman

Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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