COMMENT:

The publicity mockup of the latest fantasy vision of Auckland's waterfront stadium has an unintentional raw honesty about it. It could be mistaken for a giant steaming pot of gold, with the billion dollars or two of investment that will fund it seemingly drifting skywards into oblivion.

As with previous stadium proposals, what stands out is the rich dreamers' lack of adventure. Having decided, like past would-be stadium builders, from Labour Party sports minister Trevor Mallard on, that the only possible site was the Auckland CBD waterfront, they, like the others, show a great fear of the water.

True, to avoid past criticisms of the view-blocking nature of this beast, the latest proponents have dipped their toes into the harbour and decided to sit the thing on the harbour bottom. But this comes with a flurry of assurances that it will be high enough to cope with everything from future sea level rises to the wake of passing orcas.

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A true visionary would have taken advantage of the watery site and embraced the sea.

After all, the All Blacks are only likely to use it for two games a year - which leaves 363 days begging for big crowd-pullers.

Would it be so hard to install a plastic liner, open the flood gates, rig up some jet fans, and bring in new America's Cup blade-runners to scream around the venue in a series of close encounter duels. For rugby fans fretting about the sacred turf, no worries.

In covered stadiums overseas, the playing surfaces are sometimes grown on huge sliding trays that are wheeled out on sunny days to make the grass grow, so that solves that little problem.

And with Kelly Tarlton's aquarium just around the corner, why not diving with the sharks and swimming with dolphins as well?

The multi-purpose stadium is hardly new. For the grand opening of the 60,000-plus-seater Colosseum in Rome in 80 AD, Emperor Titus flooded his new amphitheatre and sat back with cheering crowds as 3000 convicts and prisoners of war were forced to recreate a famous naval battle between Athens and Syracuse.

Special replica flat bottom boats were built. There was even an island in the middle for hand-to-hand slaughter. The swords and blood were real. As was the free refreshments for the spectators.

Illustration / Peter Bromhead
Illustration / Peter Bromhead

These days, a nautically-themed National Party caucus meeting might bring in similar crowds - and cash. Though not more than $15,000 a head.

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If the Romans could flood and empty the inland Colosseum with only gravity to assist them, what a doddle it should be these days with the aid of a roof rack of solar panels, and the tidal flow.

What Auckland's recent wannabe stadium builders have failed to accept is the contradiction of using a prime waterfront site to erect a building in which the users will all sit with their backs to the million-dollars views.

Ordinary Aucklanders, on the other hand, tend to fantasise about ways of reconnecting the CBD with the harbour.

Around the turn of the century when the old central post office was being resurrected as the Britomart Transport Centre, Aucklanders embraced the grandly labelled Waitemata Waterfront Design Competition.

In the end 153 people went to considerable trouble to draw up their fantasies and submit them.

Crowds queued to view the entries. Many entries were wild and wacky, though from memory I don't recall a stadium amongst them. What stood out was the desire to link the harbour back to the CBD.

One entry, for example, wanted to turn Queen Elizabeth Square into a harbour inlet, lapping at the doors of Dilworth Building on Customs St.

There it would meet the revived Waihorotiu Stream that once flowed down Queen St.

The City Rail Link tunnel has rather put the kibosh on that particular idea. However I suspect, as fantasies go, it's more attuned to the Auckland spirit than the offer of a "free" waterfront stadium that won't cost ratepayers a penny - that is, once the ratepayer-owned Port Company hands over several hectares of prime port land for nothing, and the Eden Park Trust Board does the same and surrenders its iconic park to the developers.