Island Life by David Slack


The One Minute Stadium

Yesterday on Nine to Noon Kathryn Ryan asked me which of the stadium options I preferred. I gave in to glibness by making a throwaway comment about the North Harbour one. What I should have said is that I don’t really favour any of them. I feel railroaded.

I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the idea of an ‘iconic” development, and for as long as I have lived in Auckland I have hoped that we would manage to make more of our waterfront.

But this is a very dubious way of going about it.

This whole exercise has come about because they are 12,500 seats short at Eden Park for a rugby game, the promoters are up against the clock, and they have their hand out for taxpayer money.

For this, we are asked to suspend all the usual considerations: sustained, informed debate; the RMA; fiscal prudence, and all, quite possibly, at the cost of the very aesthetic delight upon which the whole notion is purported to pivot.

There hasn’t yet been an Olympics story that hasn’t begun with horror stories about construction delays and ended with a gleaming stadium completed on time. I daresay this one could be completed in similar hasty glory. But the reason those stories have a happy ending is because as the deadline looms, the big chequebook comes out and the hapless mug who meets the cost of the thing is called upon to stump up with the shortfall.

I have no reason to believe this would not be our sorry lot.

I also foresee a peculiar New Zealand phenomenon that would also come into play: even as we pay more to see the project completed we will also see every single adornment, embellishment and flourish that might make the complex truly impressive thrown overboard like so much surplus weight, the better to contain the burgeoning cost and keep the foundering ship afloat.

Thanks to Dick Hubbard, the air of public discourse has become purple with the meaningless prose of the management paperbacks – all the way from "failure is not an option" to" "we’ll be eating, breathing and sleeping stadium for the next ten days". His over-excited choice of the expression: Ready, Fire, Aim tells the sorry story.

These management texts and their preternatural optimism have their place, and that is: propping up a wobbly office desk. But they have no place holding up a scheme as precariously unstable as this one.

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