Monday, November 13, 2006

ShitMagnet Stadium

As far as I'm concerned, Rugby is a crock of shit since it went professional. The All Blacks haven't played a decent game since Graham Mourie retired and Sid Going went. However, I am not one to begrudge Orkland its First Church of Rugby. Wellington got Te Papa, so it is only fair that Orkland gets thrown a bone too.

Nor am I at all concerned with a waterfront setting. The stadium needs to be near a transport hub and the Britomart Train Station could do with some action (nice station, shame about the trains, the schedule, the other stations...). The CBD has so many sore thumbs, it's like auditions for Hammerhand Idol. One more won't be noticed. And it could be good. I'm not expecting anything so ambitious as China's Wonder. It's not as if there's just a bunch of shanties to knock down, but an altogether more complex beast; our own Resource Management Act.

That's the law that makes building anything bigger than a birdhouse a legal case. Under the RMA, Norm Kirk would have needed a lawyer to build his house in Kaiapoi. It'll be interesting to see how the government wrangles NZ's largest building site ever, when Joe Blow has to beg leave to build a sleepout in his backyard. Who knows? Perhaps the government will declare Bledisloe Wharf a Special Economic Zone.

It was entirely sensible of the Orkland City Councillors to propose the Carlaw Park thing. With the local bodies next year, last thing they need is a stadium shitmagnet in their faces. This way, they have plausible deniability. Let Hubbard carry the can.

Bummer for the Eden Park Trust, who must be feeling justifiably shattered. Welcome to the evil world of politics. There is little they can do to dig themselves out of the yawning debt they accumulated buying the World Cup baby. Perhaps they'll do what the Maori Tenths Trust did with Athletic Park and turn Eden Park into a retirement village.

But I have misgivings. Firstly, and this is pointed out into the virtual flyby, this thing is being built on NZ's busiest port. One way to swing this is to allow the Ports of Orkland and Tauranga to merge, thereby allowing freight to be transferred to Winston Peters' electorate. It's not as if Orklanders can tell whether their plasma screens arrive by boat there or in the Bay of Plenty. For the port company, it's a zero-summer at worst. It might also help Maersk make up its mind on what it's doing.

Secondly, the price is not right. Let's be honest and say $1 billion, then cap it.

Thirdly, there's the inevitable sponsorship thing. In light of the rush of blood to the head that produced an ambush marketing bill, chances are the stadium is going to have some serious naming rights fights. Will the stadium become NZ's largest billboard or what?

Fourthly, the cost of living in Orkland is going to go ballistic. There is a reason only Fletcher Building was big enough for the job. NZ's biggest public works, from go to woe in six years and we've barely seen the cocktail napkin sketches. You think getting builders is pricey now, just you wait til every monkey who can hold a hammer gets down to the wharves. Then there's accommodation. All those canary cage apartments may have some use yet. Commuting will, as always, continue to get worse.