Hard News by Russell Brown


Aiming for mediocrity. Again.

Has Keith Locke actually seen the area he describes as "Auckland's beautiful waterfront"? And when 3 News's Tony Field declared that "hundreds of people" living near the proposed stadium site would be affected, should he not have also interviewed some of the thousands of people who'd live around an enlarged Eden Park?

It's just deceptive to dedicate an alarming report to Quay Street residents agonising over construction noise (lady, you did move in across the road from a container port …) without acknowledging that life in Mt Eden, where residential housing sits 10 metres from the perimeter of Eden Park, won't be very nice if the money goes there. But it is, I guess, in keeping with the current hysterical atmosphere around the issue.

Politics have come into play: the Herald has been daily running its dumb, self-selecting mail-in polls but not bothering to put the work in and try and answer the question I want answered: is it do-able?

There appears to be an informal competition to come up with the most unflattering word for the proposed waterfront stadium. "Monstrosity" is getting a bit old, as are "bedpan" and "toilet seat". Yesterday, Don Brash grandly suggested "mausoleum". How about "abattoir"? It doesn't really make any sense, but it sounds deranged enough to catch on the current climate.

But let's look at what's actually proposed: the wharf around the stadium will be a public concourse; there will be bars and restaurants lining the area. At the end of the wharf, I would think, you'd feel like you were actually out on the harbour. Viewed from Devonport, all lit up at night, I imagine the structure would look stunning. Like Eden Park, it would house function rooms and venues, its glass walls opening up a harbour vista. Unlike Eden Park, the facilities could be used as often as anyone wanted them.

Outside, Quay Street is wide enough to be closed off as a pedestrian boulevard for major events, and still have room for a dedicated bus and taxi lane. There are 20,000-odd carparks within walking distance, a bus depot and a railway station. Any transit investment made in the area will also work for the Vector Arena and the Viaduct.

Unlike many of the people campaigning for Eden Park, I have actually been there many times. It's quite convenient for me to get to, but, then, I don't have to try and get there from any motorway. I know people whose windows shake on weeknights as buses idle outside for an hour, waiting to collect crowds using the function rooms. It will simply not be possible to eke any more use of the ground without seriously affecting the quality of life of the residents. And when it's not in use, it will, literally, be useless. It's not public space and the gates will be locked. There'll be nothing there.

If the stadium does not gain approval, the alternative plan for the waterfront is a vague, unplanned promise that the area will be "opened up". Given that we've heard that for years (while the most abysmal commercial development - a sodding strip mall! - has been permitted on the city side of Quay Street) and that any redevelopment will be competing against both a much larger project in the tank farm area and the economic claims of Ports of Auckland, I don't believe it. If the stadium doesn't go ahead, I will lay you odds that in 10 years, "Auckland's beautiful waterfront" will look just as ugly as it does now.

I know there are unsatisfactory aspects with regard to process here, but as Fran O'Sullivan says this morning, it's the chance to actually do something bold.

The irony is that the rest of the country seems to have been inclined to cut us some slack on this - they actually think it's fitting that we host a national stadium. And they're now wondering what the hell is going on.

Anyway, feel free to chip in on the discussions ensuing from my original post (largely pro-stadium) and David's (largely anti). Note that clicking "last post" takes you direct to the last post in a thread. Or, if you like, hit "discuss" and kick off a new thread.

I hope Yamis isn't right when he says in my thread:

But does anybody get the feeling this is done and dusted and Eden Park will get its absolutely absurd upgrade in its absolutely absurd location and in a couple of decades we will be having the same discussion once again with the only difference being the price tags being quadrupled??!!

But, yes, I do. It looks like we're aiming for mediocrity. Again.

PS: Please read Keith Ng's post on Deborah Coddington's nouveau yellow-peril story for North & South. It's an idictment of incompetence, appalling bad faith, or both, on the part of the author. I think there's easily enough in in his post to warrant a serious apology from N&S editor Robyn Langwell.

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