Eden Park pleads for concerts

By Russell Blackstock, Bernard Orsman

Park chief executive Guy Ngata has revealed permission is being sought to increase the number of night events from 25 to 40, including four big time concerts. Photo / Supplied
Park chief executive Guy Ngata has revealed permission is being sought to increase the number of night events from 25 to 40, including four big time concerts. Photo / Supplied

Eden Park is making a last-ditch attempt to secure major concerts at the country's rugby fortress.

Park chief executive Guy Ngata has revealed permission is being sought to increase the number of night events from 25 to 40, including four big time concerts.

But the financially strapped Eden Park Trust Board faces a number of hurdles from neighbours, a body considering its application and competition from established venues.

In an interview with Tony Veitch to be broadcast on Newstalk ZB today, Ngata said the park had put forward plans through Auckland Council's Unitary Plan to hold concerts, but knew there was significant issues and obligations with neighbours.

He said a sound barrier built soon after the 2011 Rugby World Cup for the east stand that is sitting in storage would need to be erected if it won the right to hold concerts.

"Obviously we want more sporting events. We embrace the strong history and background of sport that we have but we want to see the park used more often," he said.

"There will probably be some bold changes around the Unitary Plan and we hope part of that change will be the ability to run more concerts at Eden Park."

He said if the venue could secure four concerts a year "you'd be doing cartwheels".

Veteran Kiwi concert promoter Phil Sprey thought it unlikely Eden Park would get the green light for gigs.

Sprey - boss of Capital C Concerts - has staged massive outdoor shows for stars including Elton John and Bon Jovi.

He believed residents around the stadium would not put up with the noise.

"The whole neighbours versus park thing has been going on for years and I would not be surprised if they took this one to the Environment Court," he said.

"There are also plenty of other outdoor venues which stage concerts in Auckland and they would not just let something like this happen without a lot of opposition."

They include Mt Smart Stadium and Western Springs and the indoor Vector Arena, where major music acts frequently perform multiple concerts.

Sprey also believed the number of major music acts capable of filling stadiums was diminishing.

"The likes of the Rolling Stones and U2 are getting into their final days on the road and few of the younger generation of acts are capable of filling these large venues."

The park is also facing an uphill battle because the Unitary Panel independent hearings panel is due to make recommendations to the council on July 22 for a final decision.

In September last year, the panel issued interim guidance on Eden Park, saying it did not consider additional night games or concerts proposed by the board had been justified by the evidence provided.

"The panel would need to be provided with evidence of appropriate mitigation measures that Eden Park is willing to commit to," said the chair of the panel, Environment Court Judge David Kirkpatrick.

Mark Donnelly of the Eden Park Neighbours' Association said the issue was before the Unitary Plan hearings panel and it would not be appropriate to comment at this stage.

The trust board has struggled financially for many years. It has been able to meet loan repayments on debt of more than $50 million and running costs, but unable to set aside money for maintenance and upgrades.

- Herald on Sunday

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