Is the country's national stadium really being turned into grazing for 10,000 Perendale lambs?

The Herald, with help from Eden Park Trust, reported this morning that the hallowed turf was diversifying to include sheep grazing alongside hosting premier sport, and a previously mooted plan to open the venue to concerts.

Eagle-eyed readers would have spotted the date of publication - April 1 - and realised it was an April Fools prank.

The earlier report said:


Newly appointed Eden Park Trust chief executive Nick Sautner told the Herald on Sunday the key to commercial success was diversification.

"We live and breathe sporting history here, day in and day out. That's the Kiwi spirit. But we also realise the meat industry is one of New Zealand's biggest export earners and we want to be part of that to help our bigger plans for Eden Park come to life," the Australian said.

"The All Blacks are unbeatable at Eden Park and we're going to provide a sustainable product that will be exported globally, and Eden Park, the world's most famous rugby venue, may well become the world's most famous exporter of lamb."

The Herald on Sunday was at the park when the first flock arrived this week - the sound of their hooves eerily similar to that of boot studs in the players' tunnel as they slipped from stock truck to the playing surface of the country's largest stadium.

Kept in check by heading dog Gem, they seemed pleased with their new surroundings as they trotted and bounced below the empty stands.

More Perendales - chosen because they were maintainable in the inner-city climate, were easy-to-care lambs and raised primarily for consumption - would arrive in coming weeks to start their work helping the trust leverage more income from the stadium.

Lambs run on to the field at Eden Park, their new grazing ground. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Lambs run on to the field at Eden Park, their new grazing ground. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Sautner was confident the venture, which would see the lamb exported under the label Eden Park Lamb: New Zealand's National Taste, would bolster the half a billion dollar stadium's overall goal of greater usage to provide sustainability and maintain the first-class surface.

"The All Blacks are arguably unbeatable at Eden Park. We want to harness the blood, sweat and tears poured into this nutrient-rich pasture and deliver an unbeatable taste."

Eden Park supporters' club The Hood have been consulted, prompting decision-makers to ditch planned poultry farming amid noise concerns, Sautner said.

He was, however, coy when asked if the trust would encourage local Super Rugby team the Blues to ditch their Rangitoto logo for the sturdy image of a Perendale lamb.

"But we do have the Baa-Baas [invitational rugby team] here at Eden Park, so we think there's nice synergies in that regard."

Most recently the stadium has hosted several major fixtures, including the Lions' 2017 tour and this year's day/night test cricket.

Turf manager Blair Christiansen said they had systems to make sure all - from the two-legged to the four-legged - had a high quality experience.

The math stacked up to make sure cloven hoof and studded boot weren't on the turf at the same time, Christiansen said.

There would also be cost savings in mowing the 13,000sq m ground, but no job losses because staff could easily be tasked with other work in the community.

"The sheep will also add additional nutrients and help maintain the field in a more holistic approach than we've done recently."

Sautner said the flock could be moved to the park's outer oval during big matches.

"So we'll be able to encourage our fans to come down and see an urban hybrid farm while also having a lead sport on the No 1 [pitch] ... [We know] some Kiwis might ask questions, but we know it's a win-win for us."