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News Worthy - 10 November 2006 - No. 92

News Worthy - 10 November 2006 - No. 92

The football stadium imbroglio

Until a few days ago there had been general acceptance that the Rugby World Cup would in 2011 be staged at Eden Park. The Park already has a number of resource consents and a further hearing to secure further consents for the stadium is set down for 20 November 2006.

The merits of the site are obvious but now there are a host of asserted choices including the Auckland waterfront, North Harbour Stadium, Carlaw Park and Mt Smart Stadium.

It is important that New Zealand stages the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and that the event is successful on a range of measures. Rugby is after all widely regarded as "the national game" and the economic benefits will be significant.

Politics has intruded on wise decision-making. Some claim that the unbridled power of the Prime Minister is revealed in her role as MP for Mt Albert. They point to her influence in the failed attempt by UNITEC to secure university status, her alleged statement that State Highway 20 would go ahead "over her dead body" and her views on the Eden Park upgrade.

The public will not easily be persuaded that the waterfront proposal represents the best outcome. Here are five critical issues:

* So called "buildability" in the tight timeframe
* Cost and cost escalation
* Auckland existing stadiums can usually cover their running costs
but not their capital costs
* Auckland already has three stadiums - Eden Park, North Shore,
and Mt Smart. As one commentator has said "with a fourth stadium, one or
two of the present three is going to become a stranded asset"
* Complex issues relating to the Resource Management Act, the
impact on the operational aspects of the Port, the funding of the
project and its ownership

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For sure what we will see is proof-positive that the Resource Management Act can not deliver on major projects in reasonable timeframes. That was recognised by the need to pass special legislation for the America's Cup. As much as the Government asserts the "beauty" of the Resource Management Act, it is legislation which needs dramatic change if it is to enable sound infrastructure development.

More on the Inconvenient Truth

Just released figures show that our emissions are growing faster than almost any other country. United Nations figures show that New Zealand's emissions are growing by 1.2 million tonnes per year.

This is a rate faster than Australia, the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom.

In 2005, New Zealand had deforestation for the first time in 50 years.

New Zealand does not need any more climate change rhetoric but a set of achievable goals implemented without delay.

Rats, roads and rubbish

Rats, roads and rubbish were seen as the traditional domain of local government. All that has dramatically changed driven by four primary factors:

* public expectations of local government activity,
* the so-called power of general competence,
* the change to the purpose of local government which is "to
promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of
communities, in the present and for the future".
* the transfer of functions from central government to local

The end result is widespread dissatisfaction with the level and fairness of the existing rating system.

In a refreshing speech on 28 October 2006 covering Auckland local government reform, Michael Bassett (the former Minister of Local Government and the initiator of major local government reform in 1989) said in the context of council funding in the Auckland region:

The Auckland region could either retain its rating system and be supplemented by some form of regional tax and user pays, or be shifted entirely to this method of revenue gathering, plus income from its current assets. Electricity and roading requirements will never be solved by handouts from Transit New Zealand, or by election year lolly scrambles organised from Wellington. In the spirit of user-pays, tolls on new and existing motorways are fundamental, and long overdue, as are higher fuel taxes. While we moan like fury about the price of petrol, all of you who have travelled abroad know that we live in a fool's paradise in New Zealand. Petrol in the United Kingdom currently sells for the equivalent of NZ $2.85 per litre for premium grade. It's roughly equivalent to that on the Continent, too. Surprise, surprise, they have better roads and better infrastructure.

Is this an idea whose time has come for debate?

Political Quote of the Week

"...mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent..." - Adam Smith - Economist and Philosopher 1723-1790

Richard Worth

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