A Christmas gift on the Auckland waterfront

For The Auckland Waterfront Consortium

The Auckland Waterfront Consortium is pushing ahead with its proposal for a waterfront stadium alongside Bledisloe Wharf and has spelled out details of how it can be delivered at no cost to ratepayers and taxpayers.

Consortium Chair Dave Wigmore says while there have been various levels of disbelief around the zero cost to ratepayers and taxpayers claim, the dollars do stack up and the stadium could be constructed and ready to open by Christmas 2029.

“Since we went public with our proposal we’ve been talking to stakeholders almost non-stop and have received great support for the idea,” he says.

The proposal was launched in mid-October when the consortium unveiled its concept of a 50,000 seat fully enclosed, multi-purpose stadium partially sunken into the seabed alongside Bledisloe Wharf.

While the Consortium continues to wait for an indication from the Council as to whether it wishes to begin the detailed feasibility work for the project – including a rigorous comparison against all other stadium and waterfront redevelopment options – the Consortium is forging ahead with preparations for the feasibility phase “spurred on by plenty of support from Aucklanders.”

“Consortium members have spent about 18 months of their own time and money to get to this point – a golden opportunity for Aucklanders to get these magnificent facilities at zero cost, without diverting money away from other priorities like transport and infrastructure,” Mr Wigmore says.

“This is our Xmas gift to Auckland. We just hope that Council chooses to understand it and accept it.”

Mr Wigmore says that as part of its zero cost to ratepayers and taxpayers pledge, the Consortium is working with a group of investors with a view to securing ignition funding for the project. 

“We hope to be able to make formal announcements on this early in the New Year.”

Wigmore says for people to appreciate the proposal they need to look closely at what is behind the zero cost to ratepayers and taxpayer claim, rather than simply dismiss the idea.

The proposal requires a developer – to be chosen through an international bidding process – to build the stadium at its own cost. In return, the developer buys, and then develops, the under-utilised Bledisloe Wharf and end-of-life Eden Park. The developer pays market value for those sites, reflecting their current use. The price for the sites is estimated at $365 million. 

These funds can be used to reconfigure Ports of Auckland’s car operations and to help to shift international cricket to a new permanent home, away from Eden Park – most likely Western Springs.

The Eden Park Trust could exchange its debt-laden facility for the right to operate a thriving, debt-free, multi-purpose downtown stadium.

The public would gain new public assets comprising a redeveloped waterfront, a downtown stadium worth more than $1.8 billion, and a new home for international cricket. 

“Far from costing the public anything, this development would provide a public windfall of more than $1.435 billion,” Wigmore says.

To eliminate risks to ratepayers and taxpayers, the Consortium has created a structure that ensures the project will proceed only once the developer signs on to build the stadium entirely at the developer's cost and risk.

“The contract with the developer will include extensive guarantee requirements to ensure money is available to complete the stadium if the developer goes bust, without the need for any public funding.”

Wigmore argues that an alternative stadium option would probably equate to the same cost as the Consortium’s proposed waterfront stadium (approximatley $1.8 billion), but would need to be paid for out of the public purse. 

“Even if Bledisloe Wharf and Eden Park were sold off and the proceeds put into a new stadium, there would still be a significant shortfall, which the public would have to pay.”

Mr Wigmore says the waterfront stadium could be delivered by Chrsitmas 2029 – as a gift to Auckland and New Zealand – in time for 2030 Commonwealth Games and Rugby World Cup 2031, if we act now. 

“Delay will potentially put at risk any opportunity to host these events and reap the massive ecomonic benefits they bring to New Zealand.” This is a 10-year project and we need to start the detailed feasbility work on this now.

“It is our hope that this gift to the people of Auckland isn’t ruined by political or bureaucratic delay.  If it proceeds, as we know it can, the waterfront development will be a gift that keeps on giving to generations of Aucklanders.

“Let’s not lose this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

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