Dunedin councillor warns against stadium

Dunedin City councillor Lee Vandervis.
Dunedin City councillor Lee Vandervis.

A Dunedin City councillor has warned against a proposed 35,000-seat Christchurch stadium, saying it should go ahead only if the city ''wants to spend a lot of money and get nothing in return''.

However, Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said a 35,000-seat stadium was an ''essential piece of infrastructure'', even though the temporary 21,000-seat AMI Stadium in Addington was not full for the Crusaders' sudden-death match against the Bulls last Saturday night.

About 5000 seats were empty.

Cr Lee Vandervis hoped Christchurch would ''learn'' from Dunedin's financially failing Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The Dunedin City Council voted in 2008 to build the covered stadium at a cost of $188 million, but $224.4m has been spent, including $18m in interest on associated loans.

The stadium is projected to make multimillion-dollar losses.

''We're currently losing a couple of million bucks every six months just trying to keep the doors open,'' Vandervis said.

''That's all under review. If you want to spend a lot of money and get nothing in return, a stadium would be the best way to go.''

Parker said the stadium could be viable.

''Our goal is to be able to operate at a break-even point,'' he said.

''I don't think there are many stadiums, convention centres or major swimming pools that ever completely pay their way, but they're still regarded as core infrastructure.

''What's happened here is a chance to move our city forward and upward.

''We're not just building a city for today. We've got to look forward.

''The city will grow. I think we need to build facilities that reflect where we're going to be in 20 or 30 years.''

The council's major facilities rebuild plan, which forms part of the draft annual plan, proposes building an uncovered 35,000-seat stadium to replace the earthquake-hit AMI Stadium in Phillipstown.

Canterbury Rugby Football Union chief executive Hamish Riach is calling for the stadium to be covered.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said Christchurch's decision should come down to two things - affordability and priorities.

''Christchurch has a number of things that need to be rebuilt. It's a matter of what's most important,'' he said.

''I'm not going to make a judgment on what Christchurch should have. That's a decision for the community to have.''

Dunedin councillor Kate Wilson said ''it's nice to have it if you can afford it''.

''I think New Zealand is a small country of 4 million people on the world stage,'' she said. ''My issue is at what point do we all have to have the same thing?''

The Press