I know I’ll be unpopular criticising the Council decision to make a public facility larger last week. I feel the same about the crazy decision about expanding the size of the multi-purpose arena as I did about the size of Te Pae, the Convention Centre. It’s all about scale. Te Pae is way too big for our city. It will be judged as a failure one day and could drag the city’s reputation down with it. The same will go for the multi-purpose arena.
I thought the 25,000-seat original solution was a good one. I think the Mayor and Councillor’s crumbled under pressure last week, which I find depressing. To approve a building for which the budget has a large amount “to be identified in the future” is fiscally irresponsible. This campaign to expand the size of the arena was led by some councillors who earlier in the day had voted against paying all Council employees a living wage “because it raises our costs”. FFS.
I may possibly be in a minority as in the NZ Herald yesterday there was this article by Phil Gifford. An excellent bloke but who’s brain has become befuddled by watching too many rugby games. He wrote:
When the new Christchurch stadium is finished, there should be some recognition of a Christchurch man called Robert Hough, described to me by one councillor as “not a politician, just a good guy”, who in a matter of days organised a petition signed by 24,116 people to ensure the stadium would be big enough to bring top-tier rugby tests to the city.
Having despaired for decades at the intractable attitude of far too many local-body politicians, I’m as delighted as I am astounded that the passion of Hough – a sport-loving quantity surveyor, who told me what drove him was wanting to make sure his four-year-old child would one day enjoy seeing live top-flight sport in Christchurch – could start a wave that in the end overwhelmed the entrenched views of a majority of city council members.
In a private organisation, heads would be rolling down the street at the blinding incompetence of an organisation that would somehow over-estimate the cost of an extra 5000 seats by $38 million. But now is probably not the time to be churlish.
Thanks to Hough and a small, but determined, group of more-enlightened councillors, Christchurch will get a sporting venue fit to stand alongside the art gallery, the central library, and the refurbished Town Hall.
I totally disagree with this point of view. I wouldn’t know Robert Hough if I fell over him. However, public finance is about rationing. Every single item of expenditure. There is never enough money to pay for all expectations. Everything is about rationing the public funds.
Funnily enough Robert’s occupation is just about making projects stick within budget. Phil Gifford says he’s a quantity surveyor. If he had a budget he was managing and somebody said “we’ll find the money somewhere” he’d stop working for them. He’d have to; to maintain his professional ticket.
My comment to him would be how popular will rugby be when his son is his age? Will rugby still be as powerful as it is right now? I’m not sure. The rugby union will not automatically allocate a game to Christchurch, even if we have a 30,000-seat arena. They are about money, money, money.
It was fascinating to read the reports today of the stadium in Auckland being less than half full last night for the second game of the Bledisloe Cup. On RNZ website today there is an article commenting on last night’s game. Here are some extracts from it:
The official crowd number was given as a shade over 25,000, which again seemed pretty dubious to the media in attendance, but even then that’s still the smallest crowd for a Bledisloe Cup test since 1958, when the fixture was played at the Epsom Showgrounds while the northern grandstand at Eden Park was being built.
Then they quoted somebody off twitter:
Didn’t think I would ever experience an All Blacks test like this in NZ let alone a Bledisloe Cup. Sure just over a week lead in time, over priced tickets too, and test at same venue, but overriding feeling is the lure of the All Blacks is not there anymore, 25 min till KO pic.twitter.com/myhGEv4Hau
— Matt Brown (@chahuahua) August 14, 2021
The article went on:
The official line from NZ Rugby was that the reason for the low turnout was due to the Covid situation and only having a week and a half to market it, but that doesn’t stack up.
A then-underperforming Blues team managed to fill Eden Park just after the first lockdown finished, mainly because they saw the symbolic importance of doing so and pulled out all the stops to make it happen.
The meat-headed decision by some artless jobsworth at NZR to simply cut and paste last weekend’s game to this one, complete with $80 to $220 ticket prices and at the child-unfriendly time of 7:05pm, is where the issue lies.
But then again, this is an organisation that honestly believed that signing a deal with an oil company attempting to greenwash its image wouldn’t cause any problems, or that no one would spot the hilariously obvious double standard when they boasted of wearing new supposedly eco-friendly jerseys.
After the game Ian Foster did address the lacklustre turnout, saying that “we live in interesting times” and that the crowd issue “isn’t really my problem”.
He’s definitely right in one sense, as that All Black performance he prepared certainly deserved a bigger crowd than saw it live and did a lot to help cement his job through to the next World Cup nonetheless. But at the same time he should find it pretty problematic that his bosses have no intention of engaging with the people who are expected to pay to watch his product.
This final sentence in the article accurately reflected the thinking prevalent in NZ Rugby. We, in Christchurch, should also add “the union which expects other people to pay for their stadiums”.
In conclusion, Mayor and Councillors, the ideas raised at your meeting, as you try to back fill the large hole in CCC finances you have created by making the unwise decision you made last week, were strange. Like selling where the temporary stadium is right now. This is not the way to make decisions. You are being driven by rugby first. This decision should be balanced against what other uses could be found for this piece of land. For the whole community. Not just the small section which participates in rugby. It would be interesting to compare how much is spent on male sports compared with women’s sport. Possibly this site which could be sold to balance the books would make an excellent place for women’s netball courts. Or something else. Stop making a knee-jerk reaction to try and justify a decision which does not make sense.