By Robin Martin for RNZ

An analysis of the $50 million repair and upgrade of the earthquake-prone Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth reveals it has a high degree of risk.

The Risk Register which the stadium's owner - Taranaki Regional Council - discussed behind closed doors last week identifies 12 different risk factors, nine of which it rates as inherently "high risk".

The high-risk factors include the project going over budget, the failure of earthquake-strengthening solutions, and the stadium's cornerstone tenant, the Taranaki Rugby Union, going bust.

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Before mitigating actions are considered, the Risk Register is a sea of red, indicating "high risk".

The shade turns to amber once controls are factored in and the "residual risk" falls to "medium" for all 12 categories.

Taranaki Sports Collective spokesperson and vocal critic of the stadium upgrade, Hugh Barnes, said was of little comfort him.

"It's telling me that they are actually saying there's huge risk related to the structural repairs for the stadium," Barnes said.

"And going forward from that is that they actually need to mitigate all of those risks to reduce the cost."

It was clear from the register that until the tender was put, the regional council had no idea what the project would cost, Barnes said.

He said the risk register should have been made public.

"From a project perspective, to me it's the project team's risk schedule and so it's probably debatable, but since it's such a public project, possibly should be."

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 Yarrow Stadium is home to Taranaki rugby. Photo / File
Yarrow Stadium is home to Taranaki rugby. Photo / File

Sport Taranaki chief executive Michael Carr came out in support of a report recommending multi-sports hub be developed at New Plymouth Raceway.

The issues with the Yarrow project were well known, Carr said.

"The stadium is a bit of a sea of red anyway so, you know, what I think it does show is an accurate picture of where they see it, but the proof is in the pudding of any building project.

"They are particularly confident they can do it so again it's not my opinion that counts, but you know there's obviously some challenges ahead."

Carr said the stadium and multi-sports proposal were not necessarily mutually exclusive.

"My job challenge is to influence the influencers to make sure that we can co-exist and that we can connect.

"No matter what, there is a facility here whether the stadium is re-done or not, there's a block of land that can be unitised and we want to make sure we've got participants rather than spectators so that's the big driver here."

Mayor, councillors weigh in

The New Plymouth District Council manages the stadium and had to sign off the $50m project.

Mayor Neil Holdom said the only new risk highlighted in the register was the Taranaki Rugby Union's financial vulnerability.

Holdom said that vulnerability and New Zealand Rugby's recently announced Review of Rugby needed closer consideration.

"What is the long-term prospect for provincial rugby in New Zealand and what are the parent company guarantees or things that New Zealand Rugby might put in place to give the people of Taranaki a comfort that the financial backing NZRFU sits behind Taranaki Rugby?"

Holdom said the New Plymouth council published its risk register publicly and updated it on a regular basis, but he had sympathy for the regional council wanting to keep the commercially sensitive elements of the risk register out of the public domain

But fellow New Plymouth councillor Murray Chong - who voted not to give the project the go ahead - was of a different mind.

"The people that write these things know what they are talking about and they're concerned. You know they're telling us there's risk there.

A medium-risk factor is the stadium being seen as a
A medium-risk factor is the stadium being seen as a "white elephant" by the community because it is not flexible or multi-use enough. Photo / File

"The poor old ratepayer is paying thousands for this over a 20-year period and they need to be aware that just because we've said yes to something if there's warning bells there we need to watch out for it."

Regional council chairman David MacLeod declined an interview.

In statement, MacLeod said the council was pleased with progress on the Yarrow's project so far and there had been no surprises so far.

It was standard with a project of this size to create a risk register and good practice to flag as many risks as possible at the start, he said.

He refused to comment on whether the council believed the project could still be delivered for $50m and did not respond to questions about whether the risk register should have been discussed in public.

He said the council had to be mindful of commercial sensitivities and the register allowed councillors to closely monitor progress and to satisfy themselves that all appropriate measures were put in place.

Yarrow Stadium inherent high-risk factors

• Repair and reinstatement project cannot deliver stadium back to operational capacity.

• Repair and reinstatement project cannot be delivered within $50m total budget.

• Repair and reinstatement is held up because of stakeholder involvement.

• Major tenant for the stadium and gym/community facility goes out of business or cannot afford the lease.

• No availability of people or equipment to complete DSM repair of the West Stand.

• Dampers do not secure the East Stand under earthquake conditions.

• During reinstatement, water seepage under West Stand results in increased works and costs.

• Contractor availability.

• Infrastructure. The project assumes electrical, communications and three waters capacity is available, any additional requirement is under-funded.

Yarrow Stadium inherent medium-risk factors

• Planning approval process delays the project so timeframes are not met.

• Funding. There is a risk that debt funding is not available.

• Yarrow Stadium is seen as a "white elephant" by the community because it is not flexible or multi-use enough.

- RNZ