The purchase of a $1.4 million state-of-the-art mega screen by Eden Park Trust from a ratepayer-funded grant has been described as a "gobsmacking thing" by blindsided Auckland councillors.
The Eden Park Trust bought the 40x8m Samsung screen with a controversial $9.8m grant from Auckland Council in March last year.
The screen, described as "the equal of any in the Southern Hemisphere" was bought after one of Eden Park's two big screens broke during the July 24 Blues v Chiefs Super Rugby game.
Eden Park Trust chief executive Nick Sautner said screen had been negotiated and approved by the council's finance team.
But several councillors only found out at a meeting on Thursday - and say the big screen replacement was not agreed in the original grant deal.
Sautner told councillors the 10-year asset management plan presented to council when applying for the grant was "fluid" and could change "depending on requirements".
"This project [Samsung screen] has been discussed with council officers and we discussed flexibility," Sautner said.
Councillor Linda Cooper called for a review on how and why council's finance team negotiated and approved the purchase, without notifying the mayor and 20 councillors.
"I just think this is a bit of a gobsmacking thing to find out now. I would have much rather had an opportunity to ask these questions and make the decision ourselves," Cooper said.
"I'm really disappointed because normally if something's really contentious and highly politically charged it comes back to us."
"We all know, and the whole world knows because it was highly publicised at the time that this was a very contentious decision to grant this [$9.8m] as a grant rather than a loan to Eden Park.
"So for me, I'm very much looking forward to the review of that decision made under assumed delegation, because I believe it does go outside."
Auckland Council acting group CFO Kevin Ramsay confirmed a review was under way and a report would be ready next week.
Councillor Chris Darby said tough financial times meant there was no wriggle room in budgets.
"This is a very difficult period and thinking you can go and order a new and shiny thing at $1.5 million. Those times are over for now," Darby told the Herald on Sunday.
The grant was for the turf, stand, power maintenance and upgrades when it was agreed in March last year.
"These are essentials and something has dropped off that list but it's not clear what essential has dropped off to make room for the $1.5m," Darby said.
"I'm not just quizzing Eden Park here - I'm quizzing our own organisation because it appears our finance team has discussed this."
Sautner said projects were fluid and council was kept informed. The screen was part of "essential works to ensure the venue remains state-of-the-art".
The new screen is set to be operational by early December this year.
Eden Park said the screen was necessary for upcoming events such as the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.
An Eden Park spokesperson said the existing two screens "had reached their end-of-life".
They clarified that to the Herald the screen had been paid for by rescheduling other projects including maintenance on the North Stand roof.
"Eden Park has worked closely with council officers to reprioritise various essential projects in line with the communicated Asset Management Plan and received all necessary approvals to proceed with the screen replacement as part of the $9.8m grant," the spokesperson said.
"Having the ability to replace the failed screens will ensure Eden Park meets the mandatory minimum requirements to host the three upcoming World Cup events, and Te Matatini, in the next three years for Auckland and New Zealand."