The installation of a sound barrier at Eden Park could be the first ratepayer bailout for the debt-ridden stadium, which the Auckland Council yesterday agreed in principle to take a controlling interest in.
Councillors voted 12-7 to accept an offer from Sports Minister Murray McCully for the Government's interests in Eden Park, the Cloud and Queens Wharf, subject to working on minimising the risks before a final decision next month.
Auckland Mayor Len Brown said the offer in relation to Eden Park was a risk-free gift to Auckland. Other councillors saw it as the beginning of a ratepayer bailout for the financially troubled stadium.
The council was united on the offer of the Government's half share in Queens Wharf and the Cloud, which the Government paid $10.4 million to build for the Rugby World Cup.
It is showing signs of rust and may need about $1.7 million spent on air conditioning and other services, but is expected to pay its way as an events centre.
Mr Brown was adamant the Government offer of transferring to Auckland Council its power to appoint five of the nine Eden Park Trust Board trustees would strengthen the council's hand in maintaining the financial viability of the park and not expose it to greater risk.
The first test of a ratepayer bailout could come with the installation of a sound barrier over the East Stand, which was a condition of resource for the upgraded stadium in 2009.
Eden Park chief executive David Kennedy said the barrier had been built and paid for but had to be installed at a cost of between $1 million and $2 million once a new resource consent had been issued for the revised design.
He said the installation was built into the park's cashflows, but would not say if the park could afford the work.
Several councillors were unhappy about being asked to approve the offer before knowing more about the financial position of Eden Park and the risk to ratepayers.
Mr Brown said he would address the financial concerns and consult the Albert-Eden and Waitemata Local Boards before a final decision next month. Officers will also report back on whether council control of Eden Park, Mt Smart Stadium and North Harbour Stadium breaches competitive practices in the Commerce Act.
Councillor Cathy Casey said the Government was trying to protect taxpayers by handing over control of Eden Park and the council should be trying to protect ratepayers.
Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse cautioned against buying a car from Mr McCully - "I'd be kicking the tyres very hard" - but was confident the offer did nothing to change ratepayers' liability to Eden Park.
Around the chamber
"This is a gift to the people of Auckland."
- Mayor Len Brown
"The hand will come out and it will never stop."
- Cameron Brewer
"This gift comes with sharp little thorns."
- Christine Fletcher
"This is not a thriving business. It is a failing business."
- Cathy Casey
"I'd be kicking the tyres very hard."
- Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse