Stadium decision: Government defends law changes

By Paula Oliver

The Government is defending the amount of legislation it will have to pass to build the proposed waterfront stadium by pointing out that an Eden Park upgrade would also need law changes.

At least three acts would have to be amended for the waterfront stadium to be built and for it to be ready in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Most notably, new legislation would be needed to deal with the Resource Management Act and the Port Companies Act.

But stadium objectors say the project also rides roughshod over many other laws, including the Local Government Act.

Questioned by Green MP Keith Locke in Parliament yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen said resource consents would have to be delivered through special legislation for Eden Park or the waterfront stadium.

He said the special legislation would go through normal parliamentary procedures, with select committee hearings.

The Government has a precedent for legislating to get a site built quickly for a major event.

In 1989, it passed an act to fast-track the building of a venue to host the America's Cup.

At the time, Michael Fay was involved in an ultimately unsuccessful court challenge for the cup.

The Government felt it needed to make sure Auckland was ready to host the event if the court challenge succeeded.

Legislation to get the waterfront stadium built would include:

* An amendment enabling the project to be dealt with though quick planning processes

* An amendment to the Port Companies Act, which says the principal objective of a port company is to operate as a successful business

* An amendment to the Auckland Harbour Board (Reclamation) Empowering Act.

Introduction of a hotel bed tax or an airport departure tax to raise stadium cash will also require legislation.

But lawyers watching the stadium debate say the Local Government Act may need to be addressed.

That is because the Auckland City and regional councils are being asked to make a decision about the waterfront stadium in two weeks, allowing only minimal public consultation.

And the project is not in the councils' long-term plans.

While the Government may not choose to legislate in this area, lawyers spoken to by the Herald suggested that doing so would wipe out potential legal challenges later.

There has been speculation this week that a legal challenge could be made to the councils' right to make a decision without public consultation.

Dr Cullen declined to comment on this when questioned yesterday, but later in Parliament he fired a shot at anyone who might be considering such a move.

"The effect of an injunction on the Auckland City Council doesn't affect the ability of Parliament to pass legislation," he said.

There has also been speculation that the Government might have contravened the Public Finance Act by naming Fletcher Construction as the contractor to build the stadium's platform without calling tenders.

But that was rejected by a spokesman for Dr Cullen after consultation with Treasury.

Noise and traffic concerns allayed

Fresh reports released by the Government are largely positive about the traffic and noise implications of a waterfront stadium.

The reports - previously confidential but issued yesterday by the office of Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard - have been provided to Auckland's city and regional councils to help them decide whether to back the waterfront option.

They were prepared for the Ministry of Economic Development.

Specialist traffic engineering and transport planning consultancy Traffic Design Group said it could see no "fatal flaws" in the waterfront location.

Its report estimated that for a 60,000-capacity crowd about a third of arrivals and departures would be by car, a third by scheduled bus services, coach and train, and the remainder by walk, taxi, shuttle and other modes including the ferry.

The consultancy noted that council officers also envisaged the Rugby World Cup attracting up to another 100,000 people to watch events on screens downtown.

"Such crowd sizes within the CBD are not unusual, and are generally handled without difficulty," the report stated, pointing to the annual Santa Parade as an example.

The number of people who walk to the stadium for events such as the cup semifinals and final would likely be boosted by the fact many would be overseas visitors staying in hotels.

The central location meant many patrons would visit restaurants and bars before and after events.

While there is "ample" car parking in the "central motorway ring", according to the report, tight traffic restrictions would be necessary to deal with big crowds.

The closure to all traffic of the adjoining part of Quay St would be required for major events.

The consultants expressed some concern about the detail and width of the pedestrian ramps and gates shown in the preliminary plans, suggesting both needed to be larger. The turnstile areas were too confined.

Another report, prepared by Hegley Acoustic Consultants, found that only the occasional large rock concert would threaten to breach noise restrictions.

However, given that the existing noise environment in the area was "very high" due to traffic, the actual effects of any concert "would be no more than minor".

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