The Auckland Council tonight voted a further $1.5 million for the Rugby World Cup in a deeply divided debate that swung on the casting vote of Mayor Len Brown.
Mr Brown said the money was necessary to take precautionary steps to continue delivering the brilliance and excellence through the back-end of the tournament, when Auckland will host six of the eight knockout matches.
The $1.5 million, in addition to $4 million from the Government, was sprung on councillors at the 11th hour for a range of measures, including a new fan zone at Wynyard Quarter on the waterfront, using Captain Cook Wharf as a spillover from Party Central on Queens Wharf, closing Quay St and other waterfront costs, and doubling the capacity of the fan zone at Mangere to 20,000.
Auckland ratepayers have already spent about $102 million on the cup - $65 million for infrastructure and $37 million for running costs.
The Cabinet has approved $4 million to pay for the Captain Cook, Quay St and associated expenses after Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully accused Auckland authorities of "dropping the ball'' on the night of the opening ceremony.
Mr Brown was fortunate to get approval for the extra funding with the vote tied at 9-all.
He would have lost the vote if City Vision councillor Dr Cathy Casey, who opposed the extra money, did not leave the council chamber before the vote was taken.
Dr Casey later said she left the meeting early to attend her step-daughter's 14th birthday.
The Labour Party mayor was also visibly relieved to get the backing of Citizens & Ratepayers councillor Noelene Raffills, whose four centre-right colleagues voted against the funding package.
The most bitter comments of the debate were hurled at Mr McCully. Councillor and former National MP Arthur Anae said the minister had insulted Mr Brown by telling the world that Auckland was a bunch of idiots who could not run anything and then took over unilaterally.
"I want a strong message to go back to him from this council: find the money and fund the whole thing yourself,'' Mr Anae said.
Sporting legend, councillor and the council's Auckland Ambassador, Sir John Walker, said the rugby had been fantastic until Mr McCully came in, took over and put the blame on the mayor.
"That was the end of it for me, so I'm going to suggest the Government put up the $5 million,'' Sir John said.
Councillor Sandra Coney said she did not want the council to become party poopers, saying it was time to be prudent and not put the city at risk.
Deputy mayor Penny Hulse said the bottom line for the council was lose-lose.
"If people don't come [to the fan zones] we will be accused of over-engineering; and if people come and we haven't done the engineering required, we will be accused of not doing the right thing,'' she said.
Absent for vote