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Pansy Speak: Floating on thin ice

Pansy Speak

Floating on thin ice

In the previous edition of Pansy Speak, I asked for your thoughts about the proposal to raise the legal age for purchasing alcohol from 18 to 20. Overall, I received a mixed response, which was in stark comparison to the overwhelming response I received against repealing Section 59 (the ‘anti-smacking’ bill).

I was one of the 72 MP’s who voted against increasing the age for buying alcohol. Seven years ago I voted against lowering the age from 20 to 18 due to the concerns about our binge drinking culture. I was concerned that the latest bill wouldn’t provide the magic solution to fixing this problem, and I would rather concentrate on understanding why this culture exists and ways to change it instead of implementing knee-jerk legislation.

I was very impressed that the four youth representatives from National, the Greens, Labour and Act presented a united front on the bill, and I look forward to their input into tackling the binge-drinking culture.

I hope you aren’t tired of providing feedback for three issues in a row! Since the announcement last Friday about the preferred site of the waterfront for the World Cup stadium, I have received many emails expressing outrage at the decision. Today, I would like to hear as to what you think.

Everywhere you turn there are polls about it, and the one run by the New Zealand Herald indicates that thousands upon thousands of people don’t want a 12-storey stadium on the waterfront.

Sport, Recreation and Rugby World Cup Minister Trevor Mallard has descended upon Auckland in the past two days to convince us otherwise. He’s certainly felt the heat and has begun to appreciate that Aucklanders are more than ready to stand up and speak out against being bullied into making a decision within the ‘generous’ period of two weeks.

Since the announcement about the stadium was first made, we have learnt that Cabinet first requested options for a stadium, including the waterfront option, only in August. I have no doubt that more information will surface as to why it took so long for the Government to swing into action. Even the name has undergone transformation, from Aotearoa Stadium to the now proposed National Stadium in a short time. What’s going on?

National supports enabling legislation for Eden Park, but when it comes to the waterfront there are too many unknown risks and unanswered questions surrounding Labour’s plans for us to give the same commitment to the waterfront.

When it comes to the cost, the estimates vary, but we can be certain that any waterfront stadium will cost more than $497 million. Right now, it’s like the chicken or the egg – costs can’t be confirmed because engineers and builders can’t factor in all the elements until they’ve got the green light. Various commentators have said we shouldn’t be looking at price estimates as a guide as to what’s right, or wrong, for the stadium. It would then be irresponsible to sign a blank cheque to fund it.
Then, of course, we’re all wondering if it can be built on time. It depends on who you listen to, but the answer to that question remains unknown. The optimists say yes, the pessimists say no. Fletchers were initially cautious as to whether or not they could complete it in time, but a few days down the track and that view has changed – they are now certain it can be finished.

While all this debate rages, the majority says no. I hope your voice is heard by Labour above the din. It’s unacceptable for Trevor Mallard to criticise Aucklanders for a ‘lack of imagination and vision’. These are nothing more than bully-boy tactics from a man who knows he’s beat.

I recently surveyed Auckland Central residents on their feelings about the amount of green space in the city, and more than 1,000 people said they wanted more. Many referred to the tank farm debacle when commenting, and I think Auckland has a great chance to make use of this space and turn it into something that benefits Aucklanders and tourists, without the need for excessive costs or bed taxes.

Around 25,000 people live in apartments in the city, which means they don’t have their own backyards. At the moment they feel that there aren’t enough parks or spaces for people to truly enjoy our City of Sails. Wellington’s waterfront is a case in point. No matter what the time of day, there are always people enjoying the unique view and surroundings. The waterfront really is a jewel in the city’s crown. We should approach Auckland’s waterfront in the same way – not plonk down the first option that comes to mind.

Many people who bought apartments on Auckland’s waterfront did so with the understanding that there was a height restriction of 15 metres for any future buildings. The proposed stadium would be approximately 37 metres high, and to enable this to go ahead Parliament needs to pass special legislation. What a blow for apartment owners.

I am fully supportive of the 2011 World Cup and National is committed to ensuring the world cup is hosted in Auckland. Maybe one of the reasons behind the push for the waterfront instead of Eden Park is that the Prime Minister doesn’t want a venue of that size in her backyard. Back in 2000 she objected to a boarding house being built near her home, and in 2003 she raised objections about State Highway 20 because it would destroy several parks in her electorate. Why should this time be any different?

We need to remember that we can’t undo the waterfront stadium if it goes ahead. If Auckland is bullied into making the decision to build it in such a short time frame, we face risks with cost blow outs and making sure it’s finished in time.

Pansy Wong


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