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National lays out position on stadium

Don Brash MP
National Party Leader

14 November 2006

National lays out position on stadium

The National Party has pledged to support enabling legislation for Eden Park, but believes there are still far too many unknown risks and unanswered questions surrounding Labour’s plans for a new waterfront stadium to make a similar commitment for that, according to Leader Don Brash.

“National’s first priority is to ensure New Zealand has the capacity to host the Rugby World Cup in 2011, but the caucus considers it would be irresponsible to support ‘blank cheque’ legislation for a waterfront stadium without major risks inherent in the project being eliminated.”

Dr Brash says National is not ruling out eventual support for a waterfront stadium, but Labour has failed so far to provide sufficient costings or plans “to allay our concerns”.

“On that basis, National would support the Government should it put up legislation to get work started at Eden Park, where there are actually substantive costings and plans.

“In light of the need for legislation to be passed, and having regard to the time frames, it is best we signal our intentions at the earliest possible time. We have written to Trevor Mallard today expressing our view.”

Dr Brash says National is leaving the door open for Labour to lay out a more detailed case for its waterfront option.

National’s concerns include, but are not limited to:

- The lack of detailed costings, and the prospect of significant additional expenditure over and above the $500 million ‘guesstimate’ that Labour is promoting.

- The constrained timeframe for a project of this nature.

- The fact that it is not yet known if the project is technically feasible.

- The absence of a competitive tendering process.

“These very real risks create the prospect of substantial cost blowouts. It would be irresponsible for National to support a ‘blank cheque’ approach to legislation without certainty that these risks have been eliminated.

“This whole process has not been ideal, but National is determined to make sure that New Zealand’s reputation isn’t further damaged by the loss of hosting rights to yet another Rugby World Cup,” says Dr Brash.

ENDS


The Minister for the Rugby World Cup
Hon Trevor Mallard
Parliament House
Wellington


14 November 2006


Dear Mr Mallard,

Last Friday you announced plans for the construction of a waterfront stadium in Auckland as the Governments’ preferred option for the hosting of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. You have provided for a two week period of discussion within which decisions must be made. Because legislation will be required whichever proposal is selected I want you and other decision-makers to be clear about the position of the National Party in relation to such legislation.

First, I must point out that this is neither an ideal process nor an ideal timeframe for the making of such important decisions. However, the National Party has gone to some efforts to support the hosting of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. In light of the need for legislation to be passed, and having regard for the tight timeframe, it is best, in our view, if we signal our broad intentions at the earliest possible time.

While you were good enough to inform us of the decisions the Government was intending to take, those decisions have not been the subject of consultation. We do accept the right of the Government of the day to make these decisions and will approach any request for support on the required legislation in a constructive manner. However, that does not mean that we will suspend judgement on matters that have very substantial implications for the Auckland region and the nation and it does not mean that we would ignore the views of the public.

We start from the premise that the Rugby World Cup cannot be hosted in New Zealand without a significant investment in stadium infrastructure. The event will bring benefits to New Zealand and to the Auckland region and it is therefore appropriate that both should contribute to the cost of that infrastructure. Further, the National Party has been highly critical of aspects of the Resource Management Act. In principle, we therefore have no objection to supporting legislation that overrides that Act, and grants the necessary consents in this matter.

The announcement made by the Government on Friday compares a $497 million waterfront option with a $385 million Eden Park upgrade. Of course, the initial Eden Park proposal was for a $320 million upgrade, which included a $40 million contingency. Further, the Eden Park proposal, in respect of which we have been supplied with reasonably comprehensive information, appears to have been costed to a fair degree of certainty by quantity surveyors compared to a somewhat more speculative set of costs around the waterfront proposal (in respect of which we have not received such information). From the terms of your announcement it appears that we may have a different perspective from that of the Government in relation to the robustness of the relative figures.

At this stage, I can indicate that our position is as follows:

Eden Park

Should the Government seek our support for legislation to provide RMA consents in respect of Eden Park that support will be forthcoming.

Legislative proposals to provide a regional revenue raising mechanism for Eden Park will be supported provided that the central government contribution to the project is fair (this is currently uncertain) and provided we can be satisfied as to the precise form of the regional taxing mechanism, (we have serious concerns about some of the proposals being floated).

Waterfront Proposal

Should the Government proceed with the waterfront proposal we see significant risks that would need to be satisfactorily addressed before we could feel able to support either the necessary RMA consenting legislation or the required regional funding legislation.

The constrained timeframe within which the waterfront stadium needs to be completed, the fact that the Government appears committed to a preferred contractor, the apparent absence of a competitive, fixed price contracting process and the prospect of significant additional expenses not currently built into the project, create considerable scope for very substantial cost blow-outs. These, in our view, pose a very real risk both for taxpayers generally, and ratepayers in the region. It would be irresponsible, in our view, for the National Party to offer support for legislation without establishing with a reasonable degree of certainty, that these risks had been eliminated.

Other Proposals

We understand from media reports that you see North Harbour Stadium as a second fallback option. That would require no RMA consenting legislation, and we would commit to the necessary regional funding mechanism with the same provisos that apply to the Eden Park proposal.

We have been briefed on the Jade Stadium proposal and are unaware of any legislative requirements in relation to it. However, we would make the general comment that it would be our preference to see some financial assistance for stadium upgrades in other centres rather than a single large financial commitment in Auckland.

In summary then, the Government can proceed on the basis that, subject to the discussions we have outlined over funding matters, the National Party will support the necessary legislation to enable the Eden Park upgrade to proceed. That, at least provides a guarantee that the necessary legislation can be quickly passed to facilitate a 60,000 seat stadium in line with our World Cup commitments.

In the event that the waterfront proposal proceeds, the National Party would require suitable independent professional advice on costings for the project upon which to make a decision as to whether we could support the necessary legislation. That is not to suggest that we wish to become involved in the detail of the project – merely that we would wish to base such important decisions on appropriate professional advice. What I am proposing is that suitably qualified and experienced individuals should be available to us to assess the available costings and the associated risks. While we are prepared to go into such a process of discussion in good faith, I cannot emphasise strongly enough that we make no commitment to facilitate the necessary legislation.

While you have asked for decisions from the ARC and Auckland City in two weeks, an overriding consideration for us will be the views of the general public, especially those who reside in the Auckland region. This is, after all, their waterfront and their money that are at issue.

We have responded quickly to your announcement of last Friday in order that the Government and the regional decision-makers might understand the basis of our thinking. We are ready to discuss these matters further at your convenience

Yours sincerely

Hon Murray McCully
National Party Spokesman on Sport

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