NZ Herald: Thomas says avoid ratepayer funding for new stadium

The Herald asked me and other mayoral candidates about the idea of a new stadium for Auckland. I think we have higher priorities and I want to avoid the ratepayer directly funding it. My full comments are below.

Aucklanders tell me if they had to vote now between paying for a new stadium or fixing our transport/sorting out cheaper housing, it’s transport and housing that would win and I agree.

But, we have to deal with the stadium issue at some point. Len Brown’s avoided it – but in 10-15 years Eden Park will be looking for support for their next upgrade.

I know Phil Goff has signed up to a new downtown Stadium, but there’s is no plan, agreed location or funding – and too many of our existing stadiums aren’t fully used. I was a fan of the 2006 waterfront stadium idea – and Goff had the chance to get this up when he was a senior minister in a Government that was prepared to write most of the cheque. But he couldn’t make that deal happen either.

Also, it we do start working for a new stadium, it has to tied into a big event eg Rugby World Cup hosts in 2031 or maybe the 2030/34 Commonwealth Games.

Any new stadium has to be located close to rail and be convenient for the majority of people to get to. Everyone is fixated on the waterfront, but we’re spending a fortune increasing waterfront views/access at Wynyard and we haven’t resolved the port. A once-in-a-generation decision like this needs more thought and feedback from Aucklanders. A new stadium location also needs to made mindful of which existing stadium we might close to help pay for it.

I would prefer for the private sector to pay for it.

Public money has always contributed to the stadiums that have been built in Australasia but there’s been a lot of research done around the world showing cities don’t always get an economic return from the billions of rates/tax dollars invested in stadiums.

If we go down this track, I want see if Auckland can mirror the fully privately funded approach that’s built two new stadiums in the US.

I know some private funders are saying their keen to help but I haven’t heard any numbers mentioned, and we haven’t heard how much the Warriors are actually tipping into the upgrade of Mt Smart.

I want to avoid any ratepayers money, council would have a lot of work to do anyway on the planning and consenting issues.

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