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Locals raise concerns over stadium plan

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 25/02/2014
Ray Wallace
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

TALKING POINT: Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace, right, discusses the proposed Petone Arena with public meeting chairman Carl Bakker.

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Petone residents have voiced concerns over plans for a 12,000-seat boutique football stadium.

Wellington Phoenix co-owner Gareth Morgan has floated the idea of the new stadium, at the Petone Recreation Ground.

About 140 people discussed the proposed Petone Arena at a meeting at the Petone Baptist Church last night. Meeting chairman Carl Bakker said locals would end up with a view of the back of the stands if the proposal went ahead.

There was nothing to be gained regionally, he said.

Bars and restaurants in Wellington would lose out, while those in Petone would gain business. "If you put on a regional hat, this is a loser."

Lower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace clashed with Mr Bakker and sections of the audience after taking exception to the way the meeting was being run.

The Petone Arena was being presented as a foregone conclusion, he said. "We haven't even started our consultation process yet. I'm just concerned that people will be lying awake at night thinking this is a done deal."

Local resident Peter Drake said he feared losing access to the Petone Rec, which bordered his home. "We don't want to pay for a stadium that could become a white elephant." Noise and parking were also concerns, he said.

Mr Drake asked why other sites were not considered, such as NZ Post's soon-to-be-closed mail centre in Petone.

Under the plan, Petone Arena would become a new home for the Wellington Phoenix. Lower Hutt ratepayers would have to pay $25 million of the $45m-$48m cost, the Phoenix owners funding the rest.

In a letter to residents, the chairman of the Hutt City Council-controlled Community Facilities Trust Alister Skene said the proposal came "out of the blue" because of commercial sensitivity.

"Because of the high public profile of the Phoenix, it was important to release the concept nationally. Both Gareth and I stressed the proposal was at an early stage."

Tomorrow the trust will formally ask the Hutt City Council to include a provision for $25m in its draft Annual Plan.

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- The Dominion Post

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