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Council Drives Hard Bargain on Waterfront

Council Drives Hard Bargain on Waterfront

After a marathon 5-hour meeting on Thursday (23 Nov 2006) night, the Auckland City Council put a number of conditions around their preference for a new stadium development on Auckland's waterfront. The final vote of 12 councillors to 8, reflected a vigorous and sometimes divided debate which centred mostly on provisions central government would have to satisfy for the stadium to progress.

The requirements for a new development included the site shifting substantially to the east of government's published position while ensuring port operations and commercial return were not adversely affected. There was considerable discussion around financial contributions and a requirement that the stadium be owned and operated by central government and that all construction and operational costs were its responsibility including any cost overruns and annual operating shortfall. The Auckland City Council also ensured that it maintains financial flexibility by reminding central government that any contribution to the capital cost was not expected and that a full financial assessment of the implications of a waterfront site would be necessary.

Team Leader of the Citizens and Ratepayers Now group of councillors, Cr Scott Milne, commented "the public and media have not appreciated the depth of research and discussion that has gone into formulating the Council's stated site preference. We have set the bar high given the precious asset under discussion. Central government has a lot of work to do negotiating with ARC (Auckland Regional Council), Ports of Auckland and other key stakeholders before reporting back to Council with a more refined proposal. The message we wanted to send as a result of their request for a preferred site was "waterfront but …". The next 2-weeks will be crucial because a government site decision, which remains over the water at Cook and Marsden wharves, will likely be rejected on the grounds that it is too instrusive and could never meet urban design guidelines which are non-negotiable."

Citizens and Ratepayers Now councillors caucused extensively prior to the debate and decided a conscious vote was appropriate. After listening to extensive debate and briefings, all members voted (substantially) the same way.

As a result of the motions passed, central government will also have to isolate Auckland ratepayers from financial risk as well as looking at Transit proposals for the completion of Grafton Gully, stage 3, which are required to be brought forward to alleviate CBD traffic congestion and facilitate better egress of container truck traffic from suburban streets and the city centre.

Cr Milne added, "This was a tough decision. Councillors were aware of the heart feeling of many Aucklanders to ensure protection of their beautiful waterfront. The motions finally passed have ensured this and more by requiring central government to build an iconic, multi-use, highly accessible, piece of infrastructure that they will continue to own and operate. The national stadium will open the waterfront, which is currently a container storage and carpark. It will be a major boost for the region while ensuring Auckland City ratepayers are not unduly burdened by costs."


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