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Christchurch stadium: Council to vote on using govt funds

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 12/09/2018

An artist's impression of a new Christchurch stadium. © Radio New Zealand An artist's impression of a new Christchurch stadium. The Christchurch City Council will vote tomorrow on whether it should spend most of a $300 million government rebuild fund on a new covered stadium.

Staff are recommending $220 million of it is spent on the project, which has long been called for by groups such as Canterbury Rugby.

The devastating 2011 quake robbed the city of a stadium large enough to host any rugby games since. It meant seven 2011 Rugby World Cup matches, scheduled for the stadium that year, were moved to other cities.

That's something rugby lovers like Belfast Rugby Football Club president Dave Pilkington are keen to change.

"Christchurch needs it. You get your big games ... it's not just for rugby. That would attract the crowds. That'd probably attract more teams coming here. We'd probably get more games that people would go to."

The Christchurch City Council has already committed $254 million towards a new stadium.

If it accepts a staff recommendation at its meeting tomorrow to spend another $220m out of the government fund, then the city will be on track to build a half-billion-dollar covered stadium - only the second of its kind in the country.

But Keep our Assets Canterbury spokesperson Murray Horton believed the council has been forced into funding a stadium through a concerted campaign from both business groups and Canterbury Rugby.

"It should not be the top priority above all else. To be given 300 million bucks, and to use 220 million of that for that white elephant project is just rather skewed priorities."

Mr Horton said the council should put some of the money towards social housing instead.

"It adds insult to injury that the [New Zealand Rugby Union] has made very, very plain that [it] will not contribute not one cent to the cost of this stadium. Whereas they will be basically not the sole beneficiary, but certainly the main beneficiary of it when it's built."

Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton said the council also had to look at the city's rising rates, which are due to increase by 50 percent over the next 10 years in part to help pay for the city's rebuild.

"I know for some older people that 50 percent increase is going to mean huge financial hardship. I would like to see more done to support people who are in that position, so they don't have to carry that burden."

Christchurch City missioner Matthew Mark said the demand for social housing in Christchurch was increasing.

He said investment in this should be one of the council's top priorities.

"There is still a number of issues that relate back to earthquake times, where there's been repairs administered in an adhoc way that hasn't created an opportunity for something to be warm or weather-tight

"We also know that need is growing because the cost of housing is increasing at a rate that exceeds affordability from most people's perspective."

The Canterbury Rugby Union would not comment publicly today, but has previously said it would not help pay for the new stadium.

If the council votes in favour of using most of the government fund for the stadium, it will have to present it with a business case before any money is handed over.

The council plans to start building the stadium in 2020, with a likely opening date of 2024.


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