David Kennedy: How to grow our Garden of Eden

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Eden Park is great for Auckland's economy but needs to keep meeting the needs of an evolving, vibrant city.

Thousands of league fans packed Eden Park earlier this year to watch the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines. Photo / Greg Bowker
Thousands of league fans packed Eden Park earlier this year to watch the inaugural NRL Auckland Nines. Photo / Greg Bowker

There has been some speculation in the media about plans for Eden Park.

To be clear, there will be no changes to the Eden Park layout without the oversight of Auckland Council and a full public consultation process. No drawings currently exist for any particular style or type or size of development.

Eden Park is a major asset for Auckland. It is important that all stakeholders - neighbours, citizens and all New Zealanders - benefit from the wonderful asset it is.

Eden Park comprises about $450 million in buildings and land and other assets and while it is run by a trust it is also a business. Like all businesses we need to plan ahead.

The Auckland Council is considering a plan for the future of our city. The Unitary Plan is designed to provide a blueprint for the next 30 years.

Eden Park's planning therefore has to match a similar timeline. Eden Park is now more than 100 years old. We have to protect and future-proof the park to ensure it continues to meet the needs of a dynamic, evolving city in the years to come.

It makes sense to ensure the zoning groundwork is in place so that, if and when redevelopment becomes an option, we are all ready to take Eden Park into the future.

What we envisage is an Eden Park that is a showpiece of a cosmopolitan area, with activities that reflect and complement the stadium.

For multipurpose sporting and entertainment activities and uses which truly reflect the growing needs of the city, the neighbourhood and the stadium should be an appropriate consideration for any possible future development.

As far as the Unitary Plan is concerned, we need to ensure our position is clearly put in a way that references the needs of all our stakeholders.

For Eden Park, there are two areas of interest - operational and asset use.

Operational factors include clarifying Eden Park's council consents, some of which were originally pulled together under time constraints for the Rugby World Cup. We are also keen to improve flexibility in terms of the types of events allowed at the park. We have had some great success in bringing new and different types of sporting, cultural and community events to the park in the past few years. They have been warmly welcomed by many locals and visitors and we would like to continue to do this.

Our assets are our buildings and grounds. Auckland Cricket and Auckland Rugby are legislatively and contractually entitled to use the grounds for as long as they like and it is entirely their decision whether or not they stay.

However, should the No2 ground become available for development, we need to meet the needs of a dynamic city and ensure Eden Park maintains and grows its position as a world-class stadium and remains competitive. We want New Zealanders to feel they have ownership of the park. Currently the public have no rights of access to the open space, unless they buy a ticket on game day.

Before any development could happen the council's Unitary Plan would need to be formally approved and made operative - a process that could take two or three years. We would then need to produce plans and have them signed off by the council, a process that would be open to public consultation and submissions.

There is no certainty about what the outcome will be, which is why it is too early to speculate about the form or shape of any development.

Eden Park is good for Auckland and New Zealand. It is a major contributor to the economic wellbeing of both the city and the nation, contributing some $90 million in gross domestic product every year. The successful developments undertaken for the Rugby World Cup in 2011 have clearly demonstrated what can be achieved. Aucklanders have embraced their fine new stadium.

Now is the time to look ahead and plan for the needs of the neighbourhood and the city through to 2040. That is what the council's planning process is doing. Eden Park is committed to being part of that process and, as a jewel in the crown of the world's most liveable city, is supporting Auckland's vision for the next 30 years and beyond.

David Kennedy is the chief executive of Eden Park.

- NZ Herald

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