Iwi joins supporters of new stadium as gateway to city

Auckland iwi Ngati Whatua is open to building a downtown stadium on railway land alongside Vector Arena and a few hundred metres from the city's main rail, bus and ferry links.

Ngati Whatua's commercial arm chief executive Rob Hutchison said the iwi would love to create an eastern gateway to the city and a stadium could do that.

But he cautioned it would be difficult constructing a 40m-high stadium on land with an 18m building height limit, volcanic viewshafts to the Auckland Museum and Parnell and significant rail considerations.

A stadium could straddle old railway land, replace the fast-food strip along Quay St and, with Vector Arena, create a landscaped entertainment and sports precinct.

"We would be happy to talk with anyone who thought a stadium was a viable proposition," Mr Hutchison said.

Ngarimu Blair, deputy chairman of Ngati Whatua Orakei Trust and one of Auckland's most influential Maori leaders, agreed it was worth considering a stadium as part of a coherent vision and pragmatic plan for the CBD east of the Queen St spine.

The railway land is one of five possible sites for the city's main stadium in the long-term. The other sites are Eden Park, Wynyard Quarter, Ports of Auckland and over the water east of Queens Wharf, where the idea floundered in 2006.

Called Stadium Auckland, it was conceived as a cloud floating over the Waitemata. It would have been constructed on a 6.5ha concrete platform with about 2300 piles between Captain Cook and Bledisloe wharves.

Any waterfront proposals are bound to spark a fresh battle to save the harbour from further infill and loss of views.

Renowned architect David Mitchell says the harbour is a priceless natural asset, not a landfill site that a 5ha or 6ha stadium would make it.

"Far from invigorating the waterfront, the massive enclosing wall of a stadium would kill the present sea views. Sports grounds should go into natural basins [like] Western Springs.

At a time when Auckland needs other infrastructure, turning around saying 'the waterfront stadium is a priority' would look a bit weird.
Prime Minister John Key

"We already have an Events Centre that's rarely full, and a Cloud that is almost continuously empty. The last thing we need on the open waterfront is a giant inward-looking building that is ... only ever full on a big Saturday night."

The latest push for a city stadium to replace Eden Park has struck a public chord and won the backing of political and sporting leaders.

Prime Minister John Key said a waterfront stadium was a good idea but doubted it would get off the ground.

He yesterday said a stadium was not a priority.

"We put a couple of hundred million into Eden Park ... but at a time when Auckland needs other infrastructure, turning around saying 'the waterfront stadium is a priority' would look a bit weird I think to Aucklanders and the rest of the country."

Warriors chief executive Jim Doyle has a vision for a 30,000 to 40,000 multi-sport, multi-purpose stadium and sports administrator Martin Snedden now backs the concept -- despite his long-standing ties with Eden Park.

Mr Snedden said a multi-purpose stadium on the waterfront could revitalise the city, as long as it was planned and designed with the necessary due diligence.

He believes a mid-sized arena, with a capacity of 25,000-30,000, would be the best option for the Queen City.

Chris Brooks, the council boss charged with salvaging the city's troubled stadium strategy, has put up his hand to work on the idea, and said planning could begin within weeks.

Vodafone NZ chief executive Russell Stanners supported the push to dump Eden Park as Auckland's main sports arena and would "seriously consider sponsoring a new Auckland downtown stadium if it went ahead".

"We would love for this to become a reality for Auckland and the rest of New Zealand," Stanners said.

Warriors owner Eric Watson and former America's Cup boss Stephen Barclay have also spoken about private cash to build a stadium, but history says the public purse picks up most of the tab and carries the risk.

Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium, which opened in 2011 costing nearly $270 million, has been a burden on the city's 127,500 residents.

A new 35,000-seat arena costing about $500 million to replace Christchurch's quake-hit AMI Stadium is on hold as the city prioritises money for rebuilding in other areas.

Former Waterfront Auckland chairman Sir Bob Harvey is keen on the Wynyard Wharf site, saying the current eyesore of tanks could be turned into a fantastic and fabulous purpose built stadium.

With the right design, he said, it could become a shimmering beacon of Pasifika and reflection of life in the city, possibly with a museum on the outside.

- NZ Herald

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