'No' cause unites traditional foes in the waterfront stadium debate

By Mathew Dearnaley

In a curious but powerful show of coalition-building, rugby supporters locked shoulders in unity with an anti-Springbok tour leader yesterday at a protest meeting called by political parties of vastly different colours.

"I never ever thought I would agree with John Minto," said accountant and longtime rugby supporter Paul Cooney, after hearing his former arch-foe call for the Rugby World Cup to be contested at Eden Park rather than Auckland's waterfront in 2011.

But both men told about 250 people gathered in an Aotea Centre conference room hired by Act leader Rodney Hide and Green MP Keith Locke that the Eden Park Trust Board's estimate of $385 million for redeveloping the ground was grossly excessive, compared with a price of $45 million pitched last year to the International Rugby Board.

The meeting brought together a formidable raft of opponents to the Government's plan for a $500 million waterfront stadium, from international award-winning children's fiction author Tessa Duder to former Auckland mayoress Dame Barbara Goodman and Auckland University constitutional law expert Bill Hodge.

Dr Hodge said he was deeply concerned at the damage he believed a Government decision to ram through a waterfront stadium would do "to the constitutional fabric of New Zealand".

He feared empowering legislation similar to that passed by the Muldoon Administration in 1982 in defiance of legal judgment against building the Clyde Dam would override almost every law it came across, including the Local Government Act and the Public Finance Act as well as the Treaty of Waitangi.

Ms Duder said that since founding father John Logan Campbell stood on Mt Hobson in 1840 and declared the view to be unsurpassed by anything he had ever seen, generations of Aucklanders had grown used to protesting "vigorously but mostly without success" at the appropriation of large chunks of the Waitemata Harbour for port or private uses.

"In 2006 we must be successful in resisting this latest assault or bequeath our children an environmental disaster which will fatally compromise the gradual redevelopment already under way," she said to loud applause.

She described the waterfront stadium promoters as portraying it in a doctored and dishonest manner.

"That gently glowing, translucent, floating white cloud will certainly be a 10 to 12-storey wall along much of Quay St - a monstrous, cancerous protrusion into the harbour."

In a voice choked with emotion, she said she would have great difficulty taking her grandchildren to North Head or Mt Eden and trying to explain the object marring their view.

"I will have difficulty holding back my tears."

Dame Barbara, who also served for 12 years as an Auckland City councillor, said that, as a veteran of countless planning hearings, she was appalled by the lack of process that was being contemplated by the Government.

"I'm afraid if this goes through it will be indecently and completely out of order," she said, in reference to Graham Bush's history of Auckland local Government called Decently and In Order.

Auckland City councillor Dr Cathy Casey said that, although she believed that eight of her colleagues supported the waterfront stadium, compared with four opposed, eight were undecided and she called on the meeting to lobby them furiously before they voted.

A straw poll taken later by the Herald found six councillors opposed and six undecided.

Rugby supporter Douglas Sadlier said he and a group of "bros having some beers at the pub" had raised $400 to call on Aucklanders to fill up Aotea Square that day to tell the councillors how to vote.

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