olympian kayaker Ian Ferguson is bringing whitewater rafting and kayaking to South Auckland in a world-first facility.

Four-times Olympic gold winner Ferguson, 56, will run the whitewater course - his brainchild - with his two sons, fellow Olympian kayaker Steven and Alan.

Expected to open in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, it will adjoin the TelstraClear Pacific events centre, roughly halfway between Auckland City and Auckland International Airport. About 1.7 million tourists drive past the location every year.

The world's first whitewater facility in an urban centre, it will comprise two horseshoe rivers fed by a pond at the base. One river will be professional grade and the other will be suitable for school groups and beginners.

The target markets are tourists, recreational users, professional athletes and corporate and school groups. Ferguson said it would allow students to learn river skills in a safe, controlled environment.

The facility will be environmentally friendly, with the pond refilled with rainwater run-off and cleaned using ultraviolet technology.

The course is the first stage of a $60 million project spearheaded by the Counties Manukau Pacific Trust, the non-profit body behind the successful event centre.

An art gallery, exhibition centre and cultural experience will be developed later.

Event centre CEO Richard Jeffery said the trust will raise one-third of the costs. It has asked the Manukau City Council to contribute the remainder.

Councillors have argued ratepayers can't afford the investment, but Jeffrey said the short-term cost would have long-term benefits and cost ratepayers 48c extra a week.

"Unlike a rugby stadium, this whitewater stadium will be used on a daily basis, accessible to the community and will pay its own way," Jeffrey said.

Ferguson is putting up $1m of his own money for the project.