Revised venue strategy reignites row between mayor and critics.

The transformation of Western Springs into the "Home of New Zealand Cricket" has blown out to $91 million and reignited a battle between mayor Phil Goff and council critics.

A revised Venue Development Strategy involves ever-growing plans for cricket at Western Springs at the expense of Mt Smart and QBE stadiums, which will become "community stadiums" for less than 10,000 spectators.

The Warriors will likely be forced to move to Eden Park when their lease expires at Mt Smart in 2028 and the Colin Kay Stand is demolished. QBE Stadium at Albany will be reduced in size from 25,000 seats but continue to be used by North Harbour Rugby, football and baseball.

The latest stadium strategy from the council-controlled organisation Regional Facilities Auckland and related documents have been obtained by the Weekend Herald.


The documents, marked "confidential", show plans for a $12m cricket oval at Western Springs in 2015 have steadily increased in scale and cost to $91 million for a cricket oval to host international tests, one-day and T20 matches for a minimum of 18,000 people.

Concerts will continue to be held at Western Springs and there are plans for AFL matches, while speedway moves to Colin Dale Park near Auckland Airport.

Architectural drawings by Warren and Mahoney show a light-weight elevated pavilion with corporate facilities for 700 people and premium covered seats floating above an open, paved concourse around the oval.

Within the oval concourse is open seating with standing terraces on the hillside. There are plans for a Walk of Fame from the Great North Rd entrance, cricket training nets and upgraded outer fields for the likes of the Ponsonby Rugby Club.

Under a heads of agreement between council and New Zealand Cricket, the national body will not put any money into Western Springs but has preferential rights to the facilities.

At this stage, Auckland Cricket has no plans to move from its home at Eden Park, which comes with benefits of about $1m a year, plus use of the number two ground during summer.

The strategy talks about the need for a new national stadium to replace Eden Park, but does not advance a PWC report commissioned last year that looked at several downtown options costing between $1.1 billion and $1.5b.

RFA chief executive Chris Brooks said the latest strategy built on earlier work to take the city's old and unfit stadiums to create a purpose-built rectangular and oval stadium and high performance facilities at Mt Smart and North Harbour.


Even if a new downtown stadium is built, Eden Park would be needed for the next 10 years, he said.

Brooks said the city was sitting on "a half a billion dollar time bomb" if it did not make some decisions. Mt Smart would need $350m spent on it after 2028, he said.

He said the $12m cost for Western Springs in 2015 was for a cricket oval and since then RFA had looked at how it could develop that from an international perspective. The $91m cost would be spent over seven years.

Council 'B' team members at last week's T20 match at Eden Park; Cr Wayne Walker (left), Cr Daniel Newman, Manurewa Local Board chair Angela Dalton, Cr Paul Young, Cr John Watson.
Council 'B' team members at last week's T20 match at Eden Park; Cr Wayne Walker (left), Cr Daniel Newman, Manurewa Local Board chair Angela Dalton, Cr Paul Young, Cr John Watson.

The latest plans have come in for criticism from the 'B' team of councillors, who dealt Goff a blow last November by deferring plans to move speedway to Colin Dale Park. An extraordinary meeting of the planning committee to discuss the new strategy next Wednesday was cancelled on Thursday following feedback by councillors.

One member of the 'B' team, Wayne Walker, said he was alarmed at the woeful lack of information and a business case for the latest plans, saying councillors should have time for a proper, transparent and fully informed process.

He has written to council chief executive Stephen Town asking for full public disclosure of material related to the strategy and considering calling a vote of no confidence in RFA.

His colleague, John Watson, said the "helter-skelter" of RFA's stadium strategy continues.

"The exit of speedway to a new venue and the construction of a new cricket stadium will cost more than $120m," said Watson.

Speedway is moving from Western Springs to make way for a $91m cricket oval.
Speedway is moving from Western Springs to make way for a $91m cricket oval.

He said more than 22,000 Aucklanders will miss out of events like last week's packed T20 game at Eden Park between the Black Caps and India due to the smaller ground at Western Springs.

Goff said no extra money has been set aside for the development of Western Springs as a cricket venue and RFA has assured him they are not seeking funding to convert Western Springs into a cricket ground for the next few years.

Eden Park Trust chairman Doug McKay said the trust had played no formal part in the latest venue development strategy and knew nothing about the plans for Western Springs.

Warriors chief executive Cameron George said "at this stage we do not wish to comment".

What's planned for Auckland's stadiums

Eden Park

Rectangular ground for All Black tests, Super Rugby, other rugby matches
Likely home for Warriors when Mt Smart lease expires in 2028
Loses international tests, one-day and T20 cricket to Western Springs
Possible management role by Auckland Council/Regional Facilities Auckland

Western Springs

Speedway moves to Colin Dale Park after this summer's season
Oval ground for cricket, including tests, international one-day and T20 matches, domestic cricket.
Capacity 18,000-plus
High performance cricket facility
Venue for AFL matches
Ponsonby Rugby Club

North Harbour

Downgraded to community stadium with seating for less than 10,000 for rugby, football, baseball
Tenants include North Harbour Rugby/NZ Football/Baseball NZ
High performance facility for rugby, football, baseball, AFL, Massey University

Mt Smart

Home of Warriors until lease expires in 2028
After 2028 Colin Kay Stand demolished and becomes community stadium for domestic rugby, club rugby league, club rugby and football
Tenants include Warriors (until 2028),Oceania Football Federation, Auckland Athletics
High performance facility for rugby league, football, rugby, athletics, High Performance Sport NZ