Auckland Council offered to help find a cheaper way of laying a new surface at Eden Park to the $1.5 million cost quoted by the park's guardians, says Mayor Phil Goff.
RNZ has reported Goff saying the body that manages the council's stadiums believed a new turf could be laid for $1m, but the trust board declined the offer to help.
Eden Park Trust Board chairman Doug McKay last year asked Goff for the money to replace its turf in order to guarantee All Black tests and international T20 cricket matches can continue to be held in Auckland.
Goff told the Herald on Monday the funding request for new turf had led to broader discussions on financial matters, which are ongoing. No final decision had been made on the turf replacement, he said.
He told RNZ there had been discussions between the council, Regional Facilities Auckland (which manages stadiums) and the trust board.
"Certainly RFA thought - judging from their own cost of re-turfing - that it might be done at a third cheaper, which would have saved half a million dollars. Eden Park Trust Board didn't accept that and they declined the offer to assist with procurement at a lower cost," Goff said.
A council source said Eden Park wanted autonomy and council cash to go with it, but the council was concerned about handing over money without any accountability.
Speaking from overseas today, McKay said Goff had spoken to him about Regional Facilities, saying a new turf could be laid for $700,000 to $800,000.
McKay said he told Goff that Regional Facilities had not spoken to Eden Park about the specifications for the turf, the timetable and whether it would be grown on or off site.
"He [Goff] was horrified they didn't talk to me," said McKay, saying the $1.5m cost was at the high end of estimates.
"We are looking at a very serious situation if we can't find relief in some way.
"The council needs to recognise its responsibility to a major city asset," McKay said.
Eden Park is ramping up its case for $1.5m from ratepayers for a new playing surface on the grounds it will be around for another 10 to 15 years to benefit Aucklanders.
McKay yesterday said Eden Park is getting by "year by year" with the deteriorating turf which, if not replaced, "would lead to an inability to continue to host international events at the required standard".
At 15 years old, the turf can only drain at 25 per cent capacity, meaning the "weather could inspire against us", McKay said.
McKay has listed a number of reasons why council should fund the new turf, including its challenging financial position after being lumbered with a $46m debt following the Rugby World Cup in 2011, and a new stadium debate eroding confidence in the park.
He is miffed at the council's refusal to relax rules for events, like concerts; and accused it of subsidising its own stadiums to pinch business away from Eden Park.
The objectives of the Eden Park Trust Deed are to run the park for rugby and cricket as well as musical and cultural events for the people of Auckland, McKay said.
The turf issue is the latest in a tense relationship between Eden Park and Auckland councils going back before the Super City was formed in 2010.
Auckland Council, where McKay was the first chief executive for three years, and the former Auckland City Council have not funded Eden Park, only been guarantors and underwritten loans for park improvements.
The park has been able to pay for its running costs and interest on the $46m debt, but unable to pay depreciation costs of about $8m a year for funding maintenance and replacement costs of its assets.
Councillors Daniel Newman and Chris Fletcher believe there is a strong case for council contributing to replace the turf at Eden Park and have criticised Goff for not bringing the request to council for debate and oversight.
"I just don't like secrecy and it irritates the heck out of me that this matter was not put before councillors," Fletcher said.
Newman said he did not want to throw Eden Park under the bus, saying the council has a moral obligation to help it be as commercially viable as it can be.