Public dislike may seal fate of stadium

ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 11:23 08/06/2014

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Hutt Valley

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The Petone Arena appears to be on its deathbed, with Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace recommending the council scrap the 12,000-seat stadium because of overwhelming public opposition.

An independent poll commissioned by Hutt City Council found 73 per cent of residents opposed an arena on Petone Recreation Ground. Just 14 per cent supported the idea, and 13 per cent did not know.

Wellington Phoenix football club co- owner Gareth Morgan had proposed the stadium as a new home for the club. Morgan and his Welnix colleagues would have put up between $19 million and $23m, with ratepayers shouldering the remaining $25m.

Wallace said he would ask councillors to vote against the arena in an Annual Plan meeting on Wednesday.

A key condition of council support was having the public onside, he said.

"We were very clear that community buy-in was essential. Clearly that support is not there."

Annual Plan submissions were overwhelmingly opposed to the arena too, Wallace said.

"Petone Rec is an important part of the local community. As exciting as the proposal has been, it doesn't have ratepayer support. We won't be taking any more time with that."

Phoenix representatives declined to comment yesterday. Petone Rugby Club chairman Gus McMillan said scrapping the stadium would secure Petone Rec for future generations.

Morgan's proposal had created 200 hours of work for the rugby club, researching the concept and writing submissions, McMillan said.

"How the hell did it ever get into the [Annual Plan] in the first place? All it successfully did was put the community under pressure. That's time that we could have spent better doing positive things for the club."

The Phoenix did not make an Annual Plan submission to Hutt City Council, which made McMillan suspect the plan was to call Westpac Stadium's bluff.

"All they're trying to do is drive a better deal out of Westpac Stadium."

McMillan would now work to redirect the $25m arena budget to Hutt Valley sports clubs.

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- The Dominion Post

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