Govt cool on new stadium deal

GLENN CONWAY
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2014
Christchurch stadium
Supplied

Artist Impression of the New Covered Christchurch Stadium to be built in the CBD.

Gerry Brownlee
EARTHQUAKE RECOVERY MINISTER: Gerry Brownlee.
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The Government is reluctant to consider a fresh funding deal for a new Christchurch sports stadium despite the financial woes facing the Christchurch City Council.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel yesterday hinted she wanted to renegotiate the stadium contract inked by the previous council. That agreement has the council paying $253 million for a 35,000-seat covered stadium while the Crown pays $37m.

But the council faced ''huge [financial] challenges'' that may force it back to the negotiating table, she said.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, who wants the stadium built by 2017 if possible, did not rule out further talks, but was reluctant to consider a new deal.

Other Christchurch MPs are divided on whether a new stadium is needed.

Dalziel believed the stadium deal was one of two anchor projects that could be renegotiated. The other was the horizontal infrastructure agreement that has the Crown paying $1.8 billion and the council $1.14b.

Brownlee said the Government had considered the council's finances when it struck the initial stadium deal and he did not want to see progress stalled.

The Government had taken ''a very generous view'' of funding for the anchor projects and recognised the council preferred not to spend money on the stadium until the 2015-16 financial year. The Government took over the entire convention centre project ''to enable that to happen and ensure the stadium gets done with as much haste as possible''.

No-one had approached him about wanting to renegotiate the stadium deal, but ''I keep reading about that in The Press. I can only assume the council will honour their agreement''.

Brownlee said the Government's improved working relationship with the new council meant they could ''talk things through''.

Most city MPs said Christchurch needed a new stadium but differed on when, how big it should be and whether a roof was justified.

Labour Port Hills MP Ruth Dyson said the stadium should wait while hundreds of people were still homeless and spending their life savings on rent as the housing crisis deepened.

Smaller crowds at sporting events also raised concerns, she said. The temporary Addington stadium should stay in the meantime.

''We've got big under-insurance issues ... there are still so many libraries and swimming pools not there for people yet, yet so much money is going into something fewer people will enjoy.''

Christchurch Central MP Nicky Wagner said an urgent replacement was not vital, but ''long-term, a city this size needs to have a place where people can celebrate rugby''.

Christchurch needed a ''21st century stadium'' that hosted a variety of events and could generate income. A covered roof gave ''greater flexibility''.

Labour Wigram MP Megan Woods and list MP Clayton Cosgrove were more concerned roofs were put over the heads of residents rather than a stadium.

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''People still don't have homes. For me, that is a priority,'' Woods said.

The Addington stadium worked well, was built quickly and had good transport links.

New Zealand First list MP Denis O'Rourke wanted a roofed 25,000-30,000 capacity stadium instead of a 35,000-strong venue.

- The Press

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