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When the news is restricted to beaches, roads, and swimming accidents there is always an opportunity for some fantasist to air an idea. The most recent example is the call for a new sunken stadium on Auckland’s waterfront. It’s an idea that has surfaced from time to time in the past, starting in 2006 when Helen Clark’s government tried hard to shift the principal venue for the 2011 Rugby World Cup from Eden Park to downtown. The idea collapsed, and a considerable sum of public money was invested instead in Eden Park. It is a name synonymous with New Zealand Rugby, and to be found in several rugby-loving towns around the world. I remember staying in a French pub in La Rochelle where the public bar was named “Eden Park” and was covered in bits of rugby memorabilia belonging to the Kiwi-loving owner.

“Some of the world’s biggest names in designing, building and running stadiums are behind a bold vision for a 55,000 rectangular stadium at Wynyard Point on the Auckland waterfront” we are breathlessly told by a Herald reporter, who quickly makes it clear that the same enthusiasts require a substantial contribution from council and government. “We are the only city in Australasia that hasn’t built a new stadium in the last 30 years”, asserts the principal promoter who calls himself a “financier”, failing to add that Auckland already has at least one too many stadiums, and next to Wellington, possesses the worst problems with underground infrastructure anywhere in New Zealand. Anyone following the local news will know that without the cost of a new stadium as well, Auckland already faces massive expenditure on infrastructural renewal: everything from a second harbour crossing to further separation of storm water from sewerage, to replacement of major sewer pipes all around the city. Remember the sink hole at the bottom of St George’s Bay Rd and the overflow into the Waitemata Harbour only a few months ago? And the consequential closure of Auckland’s beaches this summer to swimmers? 

Mayors love to leave monuments behind them. Since the formation of One Big City in 2010 Auckland has paid dearly for indulging their ambitions. Len Brown (2010-2016) commissioned the Central Rail Link which is still being constructed, very slowly, and promises to cost us not only twice the original construction price, but to leave behind a $200 million annual fee for ratepayers once it is functional. Phil Goff (2016-2022) thinks he left a beautiful main street for us to enjoy - and then shot through to London, and doesn’t have to live with his handiwork – a ruined main street that is dangerous to venture into after dark because it is full of vagrants, beggars and piddlers. Attracting shoppers back to town requires the removal of the “for lease” signs that disfigure too many Queen Street shop fronts. A revived main drag is far in the future. Below Shortland Street there is a moderately commercial air to Queen Street at the moment, but it’s nothing to crow about. Wayne Brown (2022- ) is better known for his life spent in the Far North, but promised to “fix Auckland” when elected. At his age, he bears the hallmarks of a one-term mayor. Initially, he talked of a desire to improve the downtown area, but has already startled ratepayers with preliminary stories about huge rates hikes over the next few years to handle the city’s existing financial commitments. He hasn’t, so far, endorsed this latest stadium pie-in-the-sky. Let’s hope he doesn’t. His promise to “fix Auckland“ requires an unrelenting focus on management and finances.

Exacerbating Auckland’s financial problems is the high post-pandemic annual rate of immigration. A high proportion of the 130,000 immigrants remain in Auckland where the pressures on infrastructure are already huge. It takes time for newcomers to settle, find jobs and housing. Their demands for water and sewage add to an already collapsing system, raising the question of how to speed up necessary work. Public works contracts in Auckland are notoriously casual with time and cost over-runs. We have all seen the plethora of orange cones, the groups of workers standing around smoking, with little work being done. Bonuses for swift completion on budget seem not to be in favour when City Hall negotiates contracts. 

Such are the financial burdens for already necessary projects that serious thought needs to be given to the on-going financing of local government. While renters pay some of their share of rates through their rents, property owners find it difficult to carry all the costs involved with infrastructural repair. It might well be that the time has come for some sharing of GST income. Certainly, there is no way that central government’s taxation can be much further reduced in the decade ahead.

And one thing is for sure. Auckland’s need for a new, expensive underwater stadium when there is so much else on-the-go is non-existent. Possibly, nice to have, but a waste of time, and of newsprint, at this stage of our journey.

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90 commentaires

10 janv.

Once upon a time, when all about you was turning into custard, the best course was to return to basics. Brown talked the talk.. a fixit man with street cred. Not seeing much of what he promised. On the contrary. AT has a life of its own. Council staff numbers are extraordinarily high. Silence from the mayor regarding stress on infrastructure from uncontrolled immigration. It’s shambolic, but even worse, it’s an expensive shambles. Get back to basics and get this new government involved.


09 janv.

The waterfront is needed to import 1 million tons of brown coal per year from Indonesia, so why don't you promoters stuff off and find somewhere else to build your imaginary dream. We can make do with Eden, Nth Shore, Carlaw Parks. If these venues not to your liking, just transfer activity to ChCh who are going like a car racer with their stadium construction.


Albany Stadium was promised to not cost ratepayers $1. Despite this promise, every community group in Albany. The resident and ratepayers, Albany Mainstreet, The Albany Business association and even the Albany Community Board opposed it. The Albany Community Board later had to repeal their opposition as they were required to remain "neutral". They opposed it on the grounds it was a poor design in a poor location and was detined to become a white elephant. Council over-road all their objections and held several "secret" meeting to get the stadium approved.

Since it was/is all borrowed money the 50 million estimated initial cost with an operating loss of say 3 million per year and at a 6% interest rate works out…


It was about time that problems of Auckland aired. Thank you for your article.

I have not had it confirmed yet, but a councillor has told me that, it costs the ratepayers $340,000.00 (or near) for each speed bump built on our roads. Can you believe it. Politically correct people call them " traffic tresholds". Have you ever heard such nonsense, before. There are apparently only few companies that are happy to build these bumps. I feel I had chosen the wrong profession. This must be the creamiest business ever exists. If I was at a working age I would have built these bumps for less than $10,000. Just imagine, if a person calls the council and complains about speedin…


She is perceptive. BBH and co have outlined the transformation is happening for years, and yet nothing has changed and nothing will. BBH will still be brandished as extremists by most of the population which has been indoctrinated with transformation-campaigns and advertising that they soak up as acceptable because NZ is kind ! It is and will continue to be generated by the Government that follows UNDRIP and the Treaty agenda under the cloak of the UN.

Its all about strength of leadership. The Government in power has all that power (Labour left a legacy with majority sole power and leadership - consider this -

Plenty of people wish to live in the present and ignore the future and…

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