Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker has stepped in to save the day for Chiefs fans who won't be attending tomorrow's final by ordering council staff to set up a Garden Place fanzone and big screen.
Her directive came just two hours after council events boss Sean Murray had issued a public statement saying that a big screen and fanzone in the square was impossible.
Lawrenson Group director John Lawrenson on Wednesday offered to fund the big screen, security and entertainment to provide another public venue for Chiefs fans to gather.
“We simply did not have time to properly consult Garden Place business owners and residents. That's unfortunate, but we have to do things right,” Mr Murray said.
But as scornful fans began to vent spleen online at the council's inability to make the most of the event, the day after pulling plans to shut Hood St for a fanzone, Ms Hardaker said she had "taken control" of the issue and ordered staff to make it happen.
"I grabbed hold of this, and said I wanted it to happen," the mayor said.
"I told staff to make it happen. It's subject to permits being issued, but that's being worked on right now," she said.
"This is about the fans and the people, it's a fantastic event for our city, it's the hype and excitement, and in some respects it's bigger than the World Cup," said Ms Hardaker.
"We're very patriotic in the Waikato, it's heartland rugby. The Chiefs are our own and we want them to win and we want to make sure everybody has a great time, and the party happens.
"Hood St is going to be pumping, and we'll have a big screen in Garden Place.
"It's about a party, fun, success, winning, kids, families," Ms Hardaker told the Waikato Times.
Waikato district prevention manager Inspector Rob Lindsay said the police's priorities would remain "policing the event itself, that's the game, and the CBD's bar area".
"There is a challenge presented given the very short notice of it, however we will be able to have a presence there.
"We'll be in a reactive mode, rather than having a permanent preventative presence, which we would have preferred," Mr Lindsay said last night.
Mr Lawrenson offered to foot the $6000 bill for a big-screen, security and bands so that fans could watch the game in the city centre's upgraded Garden Place.
Mr Lawrenson yesterday said he had plenty of security staff and also part-owned a private security firm in Tauranga, had spoken with police, could tee up several bands prepared to play to the crowd, and he didn't see why a Garden Place fanzone couldn't happen.
Councillor Ewan Wilson said the credit should go to Mr Lawrenson, who he said had shown tenacity in responding positively to every issue raised by council staff.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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