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Time to Grasp the Stadium Nettle

Media Release - from the Centre for Resource Management Studies.

Time to Grasp the Stadium Nettle.


"It's time all those concerned with hosting the Rugby World Cup grasped the Resource Management Nettle which surrounds the proposed major stadium for Auckland" said Owen McShane, Director of the Centre for Resource Management Studies, today. The Centre has released a report which points up the difficulties and uncertainties facing the proposals for both Eden Park and the Waterfront.

"There is so much uncertainty surrounding the resource consent process for both these sites that no one can guarantee even resource consent will be granted by the time we host the Cup, let alone guarantee the stadium built and ready to open" he said.

"The other uncertainty relates to transport and parking. The proposed rail system for Auckland is so limited by Britomart and planned headways that it is largely irrelevant to the decision making process."

"If we want to have stadium ready to host the Cup it is probably time to look for a large farm South of Auckland and pass similar legislation to that which enabled the Viaduct basin to be ready for the America's Cup", he said.

"Should the proposed Resource Management (Climate Protection) Amendment Bill become law it would probably put the final nail in the World Cup coffin" said Mr McShane, "because it opens up a totally new set of legal uncertainties and potential delaying tactics."

The full report is attached:


Time to Grasp the Nettle on the Stadium

We committed ourselves to hosting the world cup, and assumed we would have a world class stadium ready in time to play the bountiful host. Can we do it? Unfortunately, no one seems to have faced up to the obstacles in the way - and the ones we may be about to put in the way.

I am enough of a nationalist to hope we are successful and that we have everything planned, permitted, and built in time. I do not normally like to be pessimistic and my intention in writing these words of warning is not to create a culture of despair but to encourage those who want to have a successful sporting tournament to face up to the realities and make the appropriate decisions.

Because of the need to raise these arguments early, they are not as well researched as I would have preferred. So in most cases I can only ask the questions rather than provide the answers.

I am confident that our engineering and architectural and construction firms can design and built the stadium in time, regardless of the location. The question is, as is so often the case, can we get the resource consents quickly enough for these designers and builders to deliver the goods?

Let’s look at the two sites currently under consideration.


Eden Park.

This looks the most promising site if only because most of the stadium and facilities are already there. It would appear to be an “addition” project rather than a new start.

However, a project of this kind and expense will have to be a multi-function stadium and events centre, rather than a sports stadium with only a few major events per year.

The new Stadium of 60,000 seats planned for Phoenix Arizona is already booked out for every weekend of the first year and for many mid week functions as well. One of the early bookings is for a ‘Rolling Stones’ Concert.

If this is the destiny of the proposed stadium for the Rugby World Cup then the “existing use” argument is blown out of the window. People who have bought into the Mt Eden neighbourhood over the last several decades can hardly be expected to accept the argument that they knew they were buying a house next door to a rock stadium, sports arena, convention centre, and whatever else the financiers deem necessary to get a return on their investment.

The neighbouring residents would have good grounds to object, to go to the environment court and to go beyond to the high court, the appeal court and even the supreme court.

I argued earlier than even a World Cup might represent a new “event” and go beyond the scope of existing use rights. But these changes in use – to include say rock concerts – would certainly do so.


The Downtown Stadium

The proposal to site the Stadium on a wharf or over the water avoids the existing rights argument as a means of overriding objections from nearby residents. It is much easier to argue that people who have bought into apartments in the central city location have to expect whatever the city decides to throw at them, provided the noise ends at reasonable hours.

However, unlike Eden Park, the nearby residents are not likely to mount the major opposition.

There is a strong body of opinion in New Zealand, and in Auckland in particular, which holds that the waterfront or any coastal area must be preserved for public use and that means in practise the public must not be allowed anywhere near it. There will be massive objections to any major structure on the waterfront – and who knows, the Minister of Conservation may even have the power of veto.

While this is unlikely, the present proposal will be caught up in issues surrounding the foreshore and seabed legislation, which remains largely untested regarding such matters. The proposal certainly falls within the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park territory and I, and I suspect, no one else, has any idea what that legislation may bring out of the woodwork.

But if it takes ten years to get a decision on a marina at Whangamata (which is then vetoed) can anyone guarantee that it would take any less time to get a decision on a 63,000 seat stadium on the Auckland foreshore?


Transport and Parking

The new stadium at Phoenix Arizona is outside the urban area and has parking for about 17,000 cars and is well served by buses, shuttles and taxis.

Neither the Eden Park site nor the waterfront locations can provide anything like this area of car-parking. The promoters, and the general public, seem to take the view that because there is a railway line and station nearby, then all is solved. We all know that trains can discharge thousands of passengers in a few hours.

The just published report from the Auckland Land Transport Authority, on the Rail Upgrade tells a different story.

The plan confirms that Auckland’s trains will be only four carriages long, in the main, because that is the maximum size which can be accommodated by the Britomart platform. A four carriage train might carry about 400 people, fully laden.

The report also explains that train system operates at “fifteen minute headway” until the tracks are doubled, along with other platform upgrades and the like, when it will become a “ten minute headway” system.

Therefore the proposed rail system in the time available will remain a fifteen minute system and hence deliver only about 1,600 people an hour to the stadium. Even when running at ten minute headway the train can only deliver 2,400 passengers an hour either into Britomart or from Britomart to Eden Park. Eden Park actually has the advantage over downtown because timetabling would allow many more trains to converge on Mt Eden, at maybe six carriages per train, than Britomart can cope with.

The rail operators may be able to increase these services “on the night” but clearly, the vast majority of the 63,000 seats are going to be filled by people arriving by car, bus, taxi or shuttle. The presence or absence of a railway line is not a key factor in the decision making process. Certainly, the rail operators need to answer the question raised by these “back of envelope” figures and advise the people of Auckland, and indeed the nation, just how much importance should be attached to rail services in making the decision.

My own opinion is that the rail service pales into insignificance compared to the need to minimize the time for resource consent.

When we focus on the resource consent process, an out of town “Greenfield” location somewhere in South Auckland, readily accessible to all those fans in the Waikato, Rotorua and Bay of Plenty begins to look more attractive. Even so, the Government might need to exercise some “emergency powers” to make sure the decision is made and made quickly.

The Viaduct Basin would not have been ready had Mike Moore not implemented the America’s Cup legislation under his own reign as Minister.

Perversely, I do not believe such “call in” legislation would be acceptable or appropriate for such contentious venues as Eden Park and the waterfront, but might well be accepted as a reasonable approach to facilitating a decision on a stadium in the middle of some farmland South of Auckland.


The Resource Management (Climate Protection) Amendment Bill

The Centre recently made submissions on the Resource Management (Climate Protection) Amendment Bill. (See Item 2 of this Digest for the full Submission.)

The purpose of this proposed legislation is to ensure regional councils are able to take into account the effect of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change, including when—

(i) considering applications for air discharge consents:

(ii) developing rules in regional plans.

This may make it appear that the Amendment applies only to Regional Plans. But recent amendments to the RMA gives power to the Regional Councils to direct City and District Councils to ensure that their plans “give effect to” Regional Policies and Plans. Therefore the Bill will almost certainly end up impacting on the preparation of planning documents and decision-making in the Territorial Local Authorities of the Auckland Region.

If we trace through the definitions of “greenhouse gases”, “indirect greenhouse gases” and the sources referred to in the Kyoto definition of “sources” of greenhouse gases, it becomes apparent that this Bill can be used by virtually anyone to oppose any application which requires an air discharge consent. The Bill also enables Regional Councils to capture all manner of activities within the air discharge consent procedure, which have previously been exempt, such as mobile sources, including cars, trucks, buses, trains and aeroplanes.

The Green Party explanation makes its intention to open up mobile sources of emissions clear when it says:

Local government can, through its influence on transport and land use planning, and its transport policy have a major impact on greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles.

This Bill is intended to open the door for Regional Councils to require air discharge consents for major land use consents on the grounds they will generate traffic, and hence discharge greenhouse gases to air. This is turn opens the door for a new wave of objections on the basis of the effect of greenhouse gases on climate change. (Note: the definition of “indirect greenhouse gas” includes carbon monoxide, which obviously captures motor vehicle exhausts.)

We all have to remember that there is hardly a human activity which does not emit carbon dioxide. As Augie Auer points out – popping the cork on a champagne bottle, or ripping the tab on a beer can, is now an offense against the climate. Maybe this spells the end of the Rugby World Cup. Certainly we can probably forget about V8 Street races.

The key point is that anyone filing an application for a resource consent with a District Council now has to contend with the risk that an objector can argue that a discharge consent is now required from the Regional Council – because somewhere along the way some carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane or other greenhouse gas will be emitted to air.

These are huge uncertainties and will further discourage investment in New Zealand commerce and industry, and of course transport and other infrastructure.

So if this Bill makes the transition from Bill to an Act of Parliament the uncertainties associated with this untested law will throw yet another obstacle in front of the hosting of the World Cup.

We can be quite sure that some alarmists will claim that the World Cup in itself will endanger the climate because of all those overseas visitors burning up fossil fuel in jet aircraft getting here, and even more as they follow their heroes round the country from event to event.

Hopefully, this may discourage the Government to kill this legislation dead and dump it in the bin where it belongs.


Conclusion

A “Minister of the Rugby World Cup” urgently needs to put together a team of people to assess the best location for the major stadium and to make the right decision, to make it quickly, taking the RMA and surrounding legal obstacles into account.

There are many other issues which could be discussed but at this stage they remain irrelevant until the resource consent and transport issues are understood and can be properly taken into account.


Owen McShane

Director, Centre for Resource Management Studies


ENDS

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