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Stadium Debacle? You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet


Stadium Debacle? You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

Auckland 27 November 2006 – “If the citizens of Auckland are expressing dismay and disappointment about local government process and disclosure over the planned Auckland City stadium, then there is an issue equal to or even bigger looming up harbour” says WAAG (Whenuapai Airbase Action Group Inc) President Russell Stewart, a retired Air New Zealand 747 captain with over 40 years aviation experience.

As Auckland City was locked in talks and split sides over the pros and cons of having a stadium on their waterfront, in the same week, North Shore City Council presided over councillor Tony Holman’s motion for North Shore City Council to revoke its earlier decision to enter into a commercial agreement with airport company Infratil. It is the second time in as many months that a debate, which has yet to be fully shared with its community has been hotly contested within the council walls of North Shore City. Once again the council appeared split down the middle.

The October voting on this issue saw a hung council with Mayor Wood taking the highly unusual step of using his casting vote to push the motion forward. At this week’s meeting, once again the council vote was split upholding the original council decision with a majority of one - which had it not been for the absence of well noted opponent of the airport, Councillor Margeret Miles, voting would once again been evenly divided.

It would appear that North Shore City Councillors are facing the same well publicised dilemma and frustrations as their Auckland colleagues. In the North Shore case this includes making decisions that will have far reaching economic, social and environmental effects on the northern and north western communities without any of the basic elements required for responsible decision making.

This includes; absence of a business plan to support the much touted but unsubstantiated economic wonders that may land with a second airport – one that currently has no confirmed customers or domestic connections but does have well publicised opposition from the national carrier, Air New Zealand.

Also missing in the vital ingredients for informed decision making is a comprehensive environmental impact report which would assess the risks and needs of one of the regions most fragile estuarine eco systems and a recreational waterway of exceptional beauty.

Perhaps most telling and disappointing of all is that, unlike Auckland City which at least enjoyed the benefit of numerous high profile public opinion polls, some North Shore City Councillors are basing their decision on an opinion poll with a sample of just 300 selected residents from a population base of more than 220,000. A 2004 survey conducted by the Ministry of Defence based on 2200 voluntary submissions returned an overwhelming 75% against the commercial airport plan.

Councillor Holman’s speech supporting his motion presented the following key points:

Key inconsistencies in the portrayal of North Shore City as a ‘lifestyle city’ and
Waitakere City as an ‘eco city’ and the pursuit of commercial aviation activities in
the region which would result in more than 50 harmful pollutants being discharged into the environment with each aircraft manoeuvre - many of which are carcinogenic. Compelling evidence from international studies support the case to minimise such compounds from our environments. Studies referred to by Councillor Holman cited increased asthma rates, increased rates of pregnancy complications and increased infant mortality as just some of the effects communities exposed to these compounds could expect. Exposure to carcinogenic compounds is well know and widely accepted as being linked to various cancers, respiratory problems, liver damage and heart disease to name but a few.

Following the council meeting, Councillor Holman told WAAG supporters that he was “concerned and astonished that in an era when private and corporate citizens throughout the world are trying to reduce aviation activity and emission levels, two of New Zealand’s most environmentally unique and precious cities are intent on pursuing an activity which flies in the face of popular opinion, has no proven economic benefits and will seriously compromise the health of the region and its environment for future generations.”

Noise. Councillor Holman noted that in parallel dispatches his colleagues correctly offered their support to the people of North Shore’s harbour front suburb of Devonport who opposed a waterfront stadium in Auckland City because of the noise that would carry across the water but that some councillors did not have the same concerns about airport noise. Councillor Holman noted that no mention had been made of sound proofing schools in the surrounding area to protect young ears from stadium noise, but such a contingency was part of the planning for an airport, the flight path of which would affect many schools in the East Coast Bays, Greenhithe, Albany and Birkdale areas.
WAAG’s Mr Stewart says that the council’s pursuit of an agreement with Infratil and therefore their support of a commercial airport at Whenuapai is “deeply disappointing “ and he urges members of the North Shore community and other key stakeholders who include “basically anyone and everyone who cares one ounce for the environment and our community” to add their support to his 1000 strong community lobby group and do what they can to get North Shore City Council to overturn a decision which “is hardly convincing in that it has the support of only half of the Council members and has been made without any meaningful economic, environmental or social impact studies or any consultation with the ratepayers as is required by the Local Government Act” says Mr Stewart.

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