Auck­land has to give it­self sport­ing chance

Sta­dium de­vel­op­ment can be un­der­taken along­side our am­bi­tious trans­port and hous­ing strate­gies.

The New Zealand Herald - - Editorial & Letters - Chris Darby Coun­cil­lor Chris Darby is chair­man of the Auck­land Coun­cil plan­ning com­mit­tee.

If Auck­land is se­ri­ous about be­ing a world-class city, we must en­cour­age an as­pi­ra­tional ap­proach to venues and sta­di­ums. Re­gional Fa­cil­i­ties Auck­land isn’t sim­ply look­ing at how it serves Auck­land to­day, it’s pro­ject­ing 20 to 50 years into the fu­ture.

The fin­ish­ing touches are be­ing ap­plied to a venue de­vel­op­ment strat­egy that caters for the cur­rent de­mands on Auck­land sta­di­ums and plan­ning how the city can fu­ture-proof in­fra­struc­ture for chang­ing user and fan needs.

How will pop­u­la­tion growth and chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics af­fect our needs? Can we cope with the in­tro­duc­tion of emerg­ing sports, guar­an­tee the sus­tain­abil­ity of cur­rent fran­chises and en­able us to at­tract in­ter­na­tional events?

Let’s be hon­est, Auck­land lags be­hind com­pa­ra­ble cities in the world when it comes to hav­ing “fit for pur­pose” sta­di­ums. We are miss­ing out on im­por­tant cul­tural, com­mu­nity and eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Our south­ern cousins in Dunedin had the fore­sight to pur­pose-build a cov­ered, rec­tan­gu­lar sta­dium and de­velop an out­door oval, both to world class, test­match stan­dard. Cardiff, Mel­bourne, Perth and Vancouver have all re­cently made sport­ing sta­di­ums an in­trin­sic part of city re­newal and re­ju­ve­na­tion.

Auck­land could be just as good. And bet­ter. Sta­dium de­vel­op­ment can be un­der­taken along­side our am­bi­tious trans­port and hous­ing strate­gies, en­sur­ing fu­ture Auck­land is as out­stand­ing then as it is promis­ing now.

Re­gional Fa­cil­i­ties Auck­land has been tasked by the Auck­land Coun­cil to boost fan ex­pe­ri­ence, to grow re­turns and re­duce sta­di­ums’ op­er­at­ing costs, to sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease venue util­i­sa­tion, and to re­move du­pli­ca­tion in cap­i­tal in­vest­ment. All for the ben­e­fit of Auck­land ratepay­ers.

It’s a del­i­cate juggling act with shift­ing forces, but af­ter ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tion, the strat­egy is a trib­ute to com­mon sense and do­ing the very thing we’re here for — what’s right for the over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity.

All mo­tor­sport classes are con­sol­i­dated into one “fit for pur­pose” mo­tor­sport venue. Crick­eters, both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional, are ac­corded the re­spect of be­ing able to play on an ap­pro­pri­ate oval. Top footy codes are ex­cited by the prospect of a ded­i­cated in­ter­na­tional sta­dium, be it a new, down­town venue or an aug­mented Eden Park.

The strat­egy is backed by lo­cal, na­tional and in­ter­na­tional sport­ing bod­ies. In sub­mis­sions or pre­vi­ously pub­licly stated po­si­tions, heavy hit­ters like New Zealand Rugby, the War­riors, New Zealand Football, the Blues, New Zealand Cricket, the NRL and the AFL have each sup­ported the aims of the strat­egy.

As a re­gion, as a gate­way to the coun­try, as a world-class city, we can’t be my­opic or self-serv­ing. We need to move for­ward. Creative think­ing should be ap­plauded and sup­ported, much like the re­cent en­thu­si­asm given to re­think­ing Auck­land’s wa­ter­front.

The sta­dium so­lu­tions will fu­ture-proof Auck­land and gen­er­ate world-class venues to host sport­ing, mu­si­cal and cul­tural events of any shape and size, on a global city scale, for the next 50 years.

This is not a short-term fix, it’s the fu­ture. It’s a once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity, our op­por­tu­nity, to en­sure Auck­land’s in­fra­struc­ture chal­lenges and recre­ational needs are ad­dressed in uni­son. That sounds like a smart strat­egy to me. Let’s get on with it.

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