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Think of North Harbour Stadium, says Wood

Think of North Harbour Stadium, says Wood

February 12, 2006

North Shore City mayor and former Northcote lock, George Wood, is urging the New Zealand Rugby Union to factor North Harbour Stadium into its 2011 Rugby World Cup planning.

Commenting on media reports that reveal plans to sink rapidly escalating amounts into Eden Park, the rugby-mad mayor from north of the bridge says North Harbour Stadium should not be overlooked.

"The national body has barely five years until it hosts the 2011 international rugby showpiece. By then Albany will be a huge commercial and entertainment centre.

"It's my view that an international-class hotel could be integrated into our North Harbour Stadium," Mr Wood says.

"Oteha Valley Rd is in a greenfields area, and has a $290 million dedicated busway connecting it to Auckland's CBD.

"The expanded facility could also be used for major outdoor concerts and even include a roof of the type seen in Melbourne and Cardiff.

"In my discussions with experienced transport operators, it's clear that moving tens of thousands of people from North Harbour to the Auckland CBD would not be a problem once the Northern Busway is completed (in 2008)."

George Wood says his council supports the NZRU's desire to upgrade Eden Park however, as time moves on, the union needs to have a contingency plan in place.

"The national body should have a back-up to call on. At the moment all its eggs are going to one basket - and it's both risky and increasingly costly."

The mayor and fellow councillors have spoken with both the North Harbour Rugby Union and the stadium's trust board to make sure everything is ship-shape for the World Cup.

"We've got a great stadium that has proven itself on the world stage," he says, referring to the venue's hosting of the 1999 Under-17 World Cup Soccer Tournament, an event praised by soccer's governing body FIFA.

"I'd like to see overseas teams based here in North Shore City. We'll look after them well with great facilities and a real rugby atmosphere that Colin Meads and Tana Umaga talked about when they presented to the IRB in Dublin.

"We've got a proven track record and can build on the wonderful experience we had last year hosting the Lions," Mr Wood says.

During the 2005 tour of New Zealand by the British and Irish Lions, the visitors were based at Onewa Domain in Takapuna in an arrangement meticulously planned by the NZRU and supported by the North Shore City Council.

ENDS

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