Eden Park upgrade takes step ahead

By Bernard Orsman

Eden Park has been granted resource consent for a Rugby World Cup makeover, but whether it gets a full upgrade or a mix of temporary and permanent seating lies in the hands of the Government.

Independent commissioners yesterday granted resource consent to the Eden Park Trust Board for a $320 million upgrade of the historic sports ground after an 11-day hearing late last year attracted more than 500 submissions.

The commissioners - Leigh McGregor, Ross Gee and Gordon Macfarlane - said the application was heard in a climate of political intervention and public debate, but that had no influence on their decision. Their 97-page report included 91 conditions.

The consent is to build new stands in place of the terraces and south stand. It does not include consent for the "full" $385m option that includes covered seating around the ground.

The board has lodged a separate consent application for this option, which has significant benefits for residents, such as a lower roof on the south and east stands and less light spill.

However, the board's plans are effectively in limbo until the Government decides how to fund a 60,000-seat showcase stadium for the cup. The board has upwards of $160m committed to the upgrade, but faces a shortfall of $225m to fund the full option.

International stadium experts are going over the Eden Park proposal on behalf of the Government and looking at the possibility of a cheaper combination of temporary and permanent seating arrangements.

Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard said work was expected to be completed in the next few weeks "and I won't be commenting until after it's been reported back to Cabinet".

Eden Park chief executive John Alexander welcomed Auckland City Council's granting of resource consent, saying it was a great start to the year.

Mr Alexander said an initial look at the conditions was positive and did not appear to include any show-stoppers.

"Over the next few days, we will review the conditions in detail and will reserve further comment until the closure of the statutory appeal period [of 20 working days]," he said.

The commissioners said the proposal would create positive effects for the local and national economies as well as for the wider social and recreational community. The downsides, such as shadowing of neighbouring properties, the number and frequency of night games and parking problems for locals, could be mitigated by improving current event management and traffic control conditions.

The conditions include the board coming up within a month with mitigation packages for residents whose homes are shaded by the new stands and setting up a round-the-clock hotline for residents.

Strict conditions have also been imposed to manage adverse traffic effects for neighbours and restrict the hours of work, noise and access in the residential neighbourhood during three years of construction.

The trust board has gained favourable conditions for night-time sporting events and won approval to increase the number of people allowed to attend functions at the ground from 1000 to 2000.

Eden Park Neighbours Association president Mark Donnelly said he was disappointed the board had been granted so many concessions that breached the district plan, such as allowing 2000 people for functions while halving the number of carparks.

Mr Donnelly said the association needed to look at the decision in detail before deciding whether to appeal to the Environment Court.

Jock Hobbs, chairman of Rugby New Zealand 2011, welcomed the resource consent approval.

"While we have yet to consider the finding in detail, the decision gives us comfort regarding planning and design issues for Eden Park.

"RNZ 2011 is continuing to work with the Government on its review of venue design, funding and governance issues for Eden Park in relation to Rugby World Cup 2011."


Stadium conditions

* Come up with mitigation packages for residents whose homes are shaded by the new stands.

* Provide a 24/7 telephone hotline for residents.

* Work with traffic providers and other organisations to prepare a transport and traffic management plan within six months.

* Restriction on hours, access, noise and lighting during construction.

* Build a bus terminal at Eden Park and ensure suitable pedestrian access from Kingsland for 20,000 people.

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