I like rugby. I like a good test match. I wouldn't go so far as to say I love rugby but I do love what it does for the promotion of our country. Let me explain.

Small countries such as ours have to punch above their weight in select fields in order to be seen and heard on an increasingly cluttered world stage. We do this very successfully with diverse things such as rugby, America's Cup, epic film-making and more latterly, and somewhat unexpectedly, space rocket launches.

It is also possible to make a statement on the world stage with a distinctive architectural symbol. Close to us, think the Sydney Opera House for example.


Where it gets very interesting and exciting however is when you can match up something we are identified as being very good at with some distinctive symbol architecture. Then throw in a stunning Auckland harbour backdrop to the mix.

Can you see where this is going? Yes, exactly. An architecturally highly distinctive, semi-submerged waterfront rugby stadium with the backdrop of our beautiful Waitemata harbour.

Throw your mind forward to the year 2035. New Zealand has a population of 7 million. Auckland has a population nearing 3 million. It is mid-July. The All Blacks are about to beat Australia. A live TV camera comes up the harbour slung under a helicopter.

It comes up the channel past Rangitoto, turns left, up the inner harbour towards the harbour bridge, turns left again and the dives on to a gleaming waterfront stadium.

The sound of the pre-match haka wafts up. The image is splashed around the world. And the stunningly visual image beamed around the world sticks and sticks and sticks.

Imagine spectators arriving directly to such a stadium by ferry for the big match. Imagine restaurants and bars and shops in downtown all buzzing in the lead-up. Imagine Britomart station humming as spectators arrive by and go home on trains to points east, west and south.

But stadiums are not just rugby stadiums or sports stadiums any more. If well designed and located centrally they can be hugely multi-user friendly. Think the "Cake Tin" in Wellington. It is now used every day of the week for conferences, exhibitions, displays, meetings and events. A CBD Auckland stadium would also be so used.

And no direct taxpayer or ratepayer money needed! What then do we have to do to convert this "mana from heaven" into a reality? What is needed?


Several things are needed. Firstly, as Simon Wilson of the Herald has said, we need a prominent person to step up as project champion. Someone who can preferably last the distance of up to 10 years or more.

Get exciting visuals out there. Plenty of them. Feed them out continuously as the project evolves. Standard stadiums can look bog standard ugly as the German one certainly did when the Herald superimposed it on Bledisloe Wharf 12 years ago.

Sack the present Eden Park Trust Board. At very least get rid of its chairman, Doug McKay. As an ex-CEO of Auckland City he should know better than to respond to the concept by dripping sarcasm and scorn.

Absolutely and totally reject the nostalgia argument for Eden Park. Dunedin rejected the argument, Wellington rejected it and Cardiff Arms in Wales rejected it. The nostalgia argument is a nonsense.

Bring renowned architect Julie Stout into the tent. She is better in than out. She is arguably one of Auckland's best architects but more importantly she is passionate about the best possible urban design for our waterfront. Her idea of integrating a waterfront stadium proposal with a whole of waterfront urban design plan is absolutely correct.

But the planning process must be sped up otherwise we will just burn the visionaries off with delay after delay. In 2035 we could still be talking about it. Why can't such a plan be done in a year? Or six months even?

Let's not get bogged down with the technical stuff. Half submerged is not a technical problem. Britomart station is below sea level. Ditto most of the buildings in downtown Auckland. We can design for rising sea levels.

Make the stadium a local body issue. And a national one. Elections do promote clarity of thinking (at least mostly).

Let's learn from the fiasco and opportunity lost of the waterfront stadium proposal of 12 years ago. Mistakes were made in presenting this to Aucklanders then. Let's not make the same mistake twice.

My congratulations and thanks go out to the visionaries who have floated this proposal. We need such visionaries and dreamers. Let us passionately discuss this proposal, debate it, modify it, but most importantly let's make a commitment to making something happen.

It is a timely positioning investment in not just Auckland but New Zealand. Sir Winston Peters Stadium anyone?

• Dick Hubbard is a former mayor of Auckland.