Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Renewed push for new football stadium in Auckland's CBD

A new football stadium in downtown Auckland is back in play, a decade after the city's politicians and rugby establishment said no to a stadium on the waterfront.

The Warriors have secured their future at Mt Smart Stadium until 2028 and sometime after that Eden Park will need major investment with nothing set aside in the bank.

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Chris Brooks, the council boss charged with salvaging the city's troubled stadiums strategy, says there is a view the city needs to decide whether to reinvest in Eden Park or build a new stadium.

Warriors managing director Jim Doyle wants a stadium as the home of rugby, league and football in the heart of the city.

The transport was really good and a stadium would create a vibrancy in the centre of town that Melbourne already enjoys, said Mr Doyle.

Eden Park Trust board chairman Doug McKay was unaware of talk about a new stadium, but hoped to be part of any future conversation.

Eden Park, he said, could cover its interest bill and running costs but could not put aside depreciation funding of about $7 million to $8 million a year for future work.

"What that means in [10 or 20 years'] time when you need an upgrade is you have to go cap in hand to the Government and the council," he said.

Mr McKay said the board was hugely disappointed at being shut out of the stadium strategy, which has resulted in the Warriors staying at Mt Smart Stadium until 2028.

The first incarnation of the strategy in 2012 called for the Warriors to move to Eden Park, an unpopular choice with the club and fans. A proposal in 2014 to move to QBE Stadium in Albany, far from the league heartlands in West and South Auckland, was greeted with equal opposition.

Warriors boss Jim Doyle says a stadium would be great for the CBD. Picture / File
Warriors boss Jim Doyle says a stadium would be great for the CBD. Picture / File

Mr McKay said the stadium strategy was in tatters with surplus assets eating their heads off and nobody making the hard decisions to rationalise and make the city's stadiums fit for purpose.

Mr Brooks, the Regional Facilities Auckland boss who took over the stalled strategy from his predecessor Robert Domm, described the latest outcome as pragmatic.

The early plans, he said, were probably not achievable but a "refresh" and longer-term process would achieve the right outcome.

Other changes include an extension for speedway to remain at Western Springs until 2019, by which time an alternative site at Colin Dale motorsport park in South Auckland or an undisclosed site in the north is found.

About $12 million is budgeted for a new cricket ground at Western Springs and a $12 million makeover of QBE Stadium will proceed, but the original work programme has been put back from now until after the World Masters Games next year.

In 2006, Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard offered to pay $500 million for a national stadium on the waterfront.

The Eden Park rugby establishment campaigned against the idea and lobbied for an eventual $250 million worth of improvements for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The city's regional council rejected the idea and the former Auckland City Council wanted the stadium on a different site.

Key supports stadium

Prime Minister John Key says a waterfront stadium in Auckland is a good idea but he doubts whether it will get off the ground.

Mr Key this morning said that he supported the construction of a new stadium in the city, and that it was a shame it was not done ahead of the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

But the probability of a new waterfront venue being built was low because of the investment in Eden Park and because there was no major events to justify its construction.

"The problem you've got now, I think it just looks so much harder to do," he told reporters.

"We've invested nearly the better part of a couple of hundred million [dollars] into Eden Park.

"You'd have to get agreement from the different codes to use it, you'd have to secure the land.

"You had the impetus of the Rugby World Cup to do it last time. And if you couldn't get it off the ground then, it doesn't look easy now.

"But, conceptually, you'd have to argue if you're an Aucklander Eden Park is in the wrong place.

"It's not very well zoned, you can't use it easily for concerts and other things, and Wellington's proven a downtown stadium works well."

Mr Key would not comment on whether taxpayer funding could be used for a new stadium, saying it was a new proposal which had not been raised with him until today.

Stadium "unlikely to happen"

A new football stadium in downtown Auckland is unlikely to happen, says former Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard.

Mr Mallard said the Blues and Warriors would have to a share new football stadium but it would also need a very big event to make it work.

Even if New Zealand was to host another Rugby World Cup in 15 years people would opt for Eden Park rather than spend another $500 to $700 million on a new stadium, he said.

Mr Mallard said you would not build a new stadium for cricket and Auckland had enough grounds to host the Commonwealth Games.

"Never say never but I think it is unlikely to happen in my lifetime," Mr Mallard said.

He said he was "fairly gutted" when details of the waterfront stadium got leaked to the Herald before the Government had the opportunity to consult on it.

"Since then I have had lots of Aucklanders, some of whom were publicly against it at the time, indicate to me they regretted the decision not to proceed."

Mayoral candidate and Labour MP Phil Goff said almost everyone agreed that the decision by councils and the rugby establishment to reject the waterfront stadium was short-sighted and wrong. He supported a new downtown stadium in the future.

He said $250 million was sunk into upgrading Eden Park, leaving Auckland with a venue that could not pay its own way, restricted to the number of events it can hold and requiring considerable expenditure in 10 to 20 years.

"We need a long-term forward plan, starting as early as possible to find consensus around a site, funding and who might go there," Mr Goff said.

He did not think the only site was on the waterfront, saying the city needed to look at a range of alternative sites.

Michael Goldwater, of Stop Stealing Our Harbour, supported a city stadium, particularly if it was part of a plan to open up the wider waterfront area.

He said the Future Port Study, looking at the economic, social and environmental impacts of the port on the wider city, could provide some pointers for a waterfront stadium.

- NZ Herald

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