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Yes to rafting centre

ANNA LOREN AND SIMON SMITH
Last updated 05:00 15/01/2014
Concept plans

DREAM IMAGE: An artist’s impression of the revised concept design.

Dick Quax and Sharon Stewart
AGAINST: Howick Ward councillors Dick Quax and Sharon Stewart say the project should not be ratepayer funded.

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Earthworks for the controversial $32 million whitewater rafting centre at the Vodafone Events Centre will start next month.

But long-time opponents of Wero say it's not right to give the "hair brain project" more than $20m received from the sale of adjacent public land.

Bedmaker Sleepyhead has purchased the two sites, which total 9.2ha, for a new $45m manufacturing, warehouse and distribution centre.

And council-controlled organisation Regional Facilities Auckland promised the money raised through the sale of the land - more than $20m - to the Wero whitewater rafting project.

"We are very happy with what is a great outcome for Manukau and Auckland," a spokesperson from the organisation says.

Howick councillor Sharon Stewart says she has campaigned against Wero "from day one".

"This money could far better be used to reduce rates and not on some hair brain project," Mrs Stewart says.

Fellow councillor Dick Quax says he would like to know if "the best possible deal" was reached for the land.

Under normal circumstances it would have been sold by Auckland Council Property, he says.

The money should be returned to the ratepayers of Auckland, he says.

Counties Manukau Pacific Trust chief executive Richard Jeffery says the land sale was "the major milestone" the project had to pass before building the whitewater rafting centre could proceed.

The trust is now busy raising the remaining $12m it needs, with the money coming from philanthropic trusts and corporate sponsorship.

Fundraising attempts have been "very successful" so far, Mr Jeffery says.

The trust previously raised $29m to build the Vodafone Events Centre so he's confident the target can be reached.

Construction on the whitewater rafting centre will begin at the end of the year and it's hoped it will be open by the end of 2015.

"We want to have it open for the World Master's Games in 2017, the largest multisport event in the world," he says.

Mr Jeffery says the former Manukau City Council granted the project a 10-year resource consent just before the super-city was formed.

A revised concept design has just been completed and the centre is now planned to have two whitewater rafting courses - one for recreational rafting and international kayaking events and one for use by school groups. An art gallery, cafe and classroom spaces are also planned.

The trust's business plan shows it will be able to admit 15,000 students every year, Mr Jeffery says.

Counties Manukau Sport will provide a $100,000 annual grant to subsidise entry fees for children from South Auckland.

Mr Jeffery says the trust is "very grateful" for the support it's received from the area's local boards and from the community as a whole.

"The timing's fantastic to get the project under way just before the economy bounces back."

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- Eastern Courier

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