Warriors' Mt Smart row with council resolved

ISSUES RESOLVED: Mt Smart Stadium has been the Warriors' home since they entered the Australian competition in 1995 and that seems unlikely to change.
ISSUES RESOLVED: Mt Smart Stadium has been the Warriors' home since they entered the Australian competition in 1995 and that seems unlikely to change.

The Warriors do not want to move to Eden Park. It can also be revealed that mediators have been appointed to smooth over conflict between the NRL franchise and their Mt Smart Stadium landlord - Auckland Council-operated, Regional Facilities Auckland.

The Warriors are at odds with the RFA's latest recommendation that their NRL home games be moved to Eden Park.

The club's dissatisfaction with the condition of Mt Smart and uncertainty over their future tenancy has simmered for months, and now specific problems in the relationship between the Warriors and the RFA can be revealed.

Documents obtained by the Sunday Star-Times under the Official Information Act detail professional dispute resolution was engaged in June 2011. The most explosive document, a confidential 20-page mediation report, declares 37 points of conflict, "a number of boilovers, at a face-to-face level" and that "of late, the relationship has gone backwards".

Ten main problem areas are cited including rent, contracts and revenue, operational costs, facilities and training fields, promotion, standards and safety.

The report, dated May 25, 2012 - almost a year after the process began - recommends further mediation to resolve the conflict, including the future of the stadium.

But Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah says most issues, apart from those relating to the condition of Mt Smart, were resolved in an initial one day of mediation held “some time around” the date of the report.

He said the Warriors' relationship with the RFA has “greatly improved” following mediation and the boilovers referred to were “normal business tensions”.

“We felt a co-operative mediation was the right way to manage it and we resolved all the matters in the course of a day,” Scurrah said. “We only had one mediation and everything was resolved. I don't have the list of 37 items in front of me; if it talks about the conditions of the venue, well they haven't been resolved yet, obviously.”

Scurrah declined to give details on which exact issues had been fixed, confirming only that “operational issues have certainly been resolved”.

“I don't want to talk about things that we meet about in confidence. All we can say is we were pleased with the mediation day and the outcome.

“I'm not going to go into specifics. The council worked really constructively with us to resolve the issues, a lot of them had been long-standing.

“The RFA have acknowledged the venue needs an upgrade in a number of areas and we appreciate that council and the RFA are aware of it.”

On Thursday councillors meet to discuss an RFA recommendation that Eden Park be made the primary venue for the Warriors and international rugby league games, sharing the venue with rugby union and cricket.

Scurrah says while the Warriors are happy to entertain such options, the club's preference is to see a multimillion-dollar upgrade of Mt Smart and retain their home ground.

“The city are asking a number of sports to look at a number of options. We're happy to entertain viable options, but that doesn't mean we would accept them,” he said.

“We started in 1995 at Mt Smart and our preference is for an upgraded stadium. We think there's still a lot of potential with the stadium but it does require some significant upgrades.

“The RFA are responsibly looking at the wider strategy, not just our preference, but for other use, so we've got to allow them to work with the council and come up with a strategy which suits all venues and all sports.”

Scurrah said the future of the Warriors' home ground would be largely driven by the strategy implemented by council and the RFA. But he said the upshot remains a long way off yet.

“I think it's just the start of a long period of consultation. We're a long way off deciding the future in terms of a venue,” he said.

The Warriors' current contract sees them at Mt Smart until 2018.

Sunday Star Times