Eden Park will have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to continue hosting afternoon rugby.
More than 40,000 people attended the Super Rugby Aotearoa game between the Blues and Hurricanes on Sunday at the Auckland venue, but for the game to even happen, it required the stadium to apply for resource consent.
"We applied on a one-off basis. That cost in excess of $10,000 dollars," Eden Park CEO Nick Sautner told the Herald .
"We're now in a position we're going to have to re-apply for the two future afternoon fixtures.
"We will work with council to combine the application process for the remaining two afternoon matches. This isn't going to solely be an issue in 2020. There's the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup and the 2021 Rugby World Cup, and we don't want to be in a position where we have to turn away content for the city due to these regulations."
Eden Park is not permitted under Auckland's planning document, the Unitary Plan, to hold matches on Sunday nights. With a 3:35pm kick-off, the game had a scheduled finish of 5:15pm – five minutes after sunset in the city. Under the Auckland Unitary Plan, it was therefore classified it as a "night-time activity" as it was "undertaken between 30 minutes before sunset on one day and 30 minutes before sunrise on the following day."
It's left Sautner concerned at what could have been.
"To the credit of the council officers, they were able to process the consent in a challenging timeframe. However, the game had been on sale, and if in the event we weren't able to get consent, you can imagine the challenges we would've faced to try and communicate with fans and our entire extended workforce, including security and customer service, both in the stadium and on the streets managing public transport."
It's the same issue Eden Park encountered earlier this January, when consent was required to allow the Black Caps v India Twenty20 cricket game - though that cost the stadium more than $150,000.
"The regulations Eden Park operates under are onerous and do not apply to other stadia in Auckland." Sautner says.
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"We're a charitable trust, and require funds derived from fans, partners, members and sponsors to fund our resource consent applications required throughout the year. Due to the impact of Covid-19 our lean workforce has seen a 35 per cent reduction of payroll during lockdown. The funds allocated to council processes would be better spent on our staff and improving our community facility for Auckland."
Sautner believes the ground continuing to hold afternoon rugby benefits community engagement, just as much as it does sports fans.
"I've had communication from restaurants in Takapuna, K Road, Kingsland and Dominion Road, all crying out for more events at Eden Park along with complimenting us on the fixture.
"The match timing saw fans visit a range of Auckland eateries for lunch beforehand or dinner afterwards. We know that our events provide significant economic benefit which supports the hospitality industry that has been so hard hit by this pandemic.
"Unfortunately, for us to continue to do so, these afternoon matches will cost us tens of thousands of dollars."