It's not often I go to a 300-strong public meeting on a political hot potato and don't heckle -- or don't need to. It's even less often that I would be found applauding (loudly) Keith Locke, Rodney Hide, John Minto, several Auckland City Councillors and the architect of Wellington's Te Papa (in fact, I can assure you it's never happened before).
Today, however, was that day.
On the simple issue of saying "No" to Trevor Mallard's Auckland waterfront stadium, there was no need to heckle and every reason to applaud since at this afternoon 's meeting to oppose the stadium, all spoke in opposition to the waterfront stadum, and all made perfect sense -- and over the course of a two-hour meeting, they were joined by several other speakers who also made perfect sense across a surprising similarity of themes: the lack of information, and the lying about the information given; a government intent on railroading this thing through; the outright inability for a project like this to fit that site; the enormous cost both for the stadium and for the moving of the port facilities; Here's a brief summary of what the main speakers said, who where:
- Keith Locke: The decision-making in evidence here is an affront to democracy; the proposal undermines what has been happening to open up the waterfront; there is no evidence for it invigorating the CBD as claimed; it will be a huge economic cost; there is no specific design here, just a sketch on a piece of paper. Right on all five.
- Dianne Brand, from the Auckland Architecture School, and member of Dick Hubbard's 'Urban Design Panel': Theatre and stadium design, she says, is commercially all about bums on seats. Architecturally, this stadium as designed is "all bum, from all directions." It is "disproportionately large" for that site -- and evidence offered later in the meeting is that the few drawings released distort the scale to hide the real size; and in an effort to make the thing fit, it has over the last week been given "the tutu treatment": a man-made beach to the north, in the middle of the commercial shipping lanes (as one wag said later, something only a Wellington architect would propose), and a "commercially unviable western park." It doesn't fit. At all.
- Architect Pete Bossley: Bossley, responsible for Te Papa, told the meeting he and others have repeatedly asked to see the reports on urban design issues for the stadium. "We've asked. They haven't been done." No examination has been done on issues of wind, scale, transport. The stadium is out of all proportion for the site (and he would know). It buries the finger wharves that could eventually be usedThe architectural effect of the stadium needs to be considered when empty, with all the lights off, just as it will be for ninety-five percent of the time, not as the pretty pictures show it bathed in a halo of light.
- Lynette Wells (hotel industry): pointed out the iniquity of the proposed method of funding, that is, the bed tax and the airport tax. There is "alarm" within her industry at what this would do to tourism; tax and ratepayers should be alarmed at the price, and the potential for other councils to levy similar taxes in their areas if this is approved; the hotel industry is "vehemently opposed" to both.
- Cathy Casey (Auckland City Councillor): Councillors, who are expected to make a decision on this with two weeks, "have been treated like mushrooms -- kept in the dark and fed with shit." The Herald this morning is "lying," she said, when they reported "Councillors in shock stadium u-turn " on the waterfront stadium. "There has been no such U-turn. [Herald journalist] Janet Savage made that up." A Press Council complaint is being prepared. Casey later supplied a list of the councillors and where they stand (see below). Five against the bedpan, eight for, and eight 'floating' councillors.
- Christine Caughey (Auckland City Councillor): The stadium is an affront to the process being worked through by Auckland City to open up the waterfront. Submissions have repeatedly shown, for example, that people want viewshafts opened up to the Hauraki Gulf islands. Councillors have been "ambushed by the Minister." They have asked for a firm design ... there is none. For evidence on costings ... there is none. For evidence of urban design analysis, or transport studies, or economic impact reports ... there are none.
- Robyn Hughes (ARC councillor): The ARC owns the port, not the government. She does not want "a giant used condom" down there. Speaking to me before the meeting, Hughes confirmed to me that the proposal presently on the table for moving the port is to extend Bledisloe Wharf into the harbour by another 65m (that's half a rugby field).
- Tessa Duder (author and historian): Duder talked of quotes she had found describing the site of Auckland, and compared them to what is proposed. [I remember architect Claude Megson, for example, talking about the Auckland as one thin strip of land hung suspended between the sparkling waters of two harbours, and anchored by two sets of hills to east and west.] The imagery of what has been proposed "is seen from flattering angles, is doctored and dishonest," (on that, see below). "That gently glowing, translucent, floating white cloud will certainly be a 10 to 12-storey wall along much of Quay St - a monstrous, cancerous protrusion into the harbour." With what is proposed for the edge of those sparkling waters, she would no longer look forward to taking her guests and grandchildren up Mt Eden and North Head since she couldn't explain to them how such a monstrosity could have been built; "I will have difficulty holding back my tears."
- Waterfront resident Susan Grimsdale: Received assurances from council when buying her apartment that there was an 18m height limit for ports area -- stadium sketch is said to be 37m (about twelve stories). BUT: the presentation pictures (see right) are a lie. The light standard to the right of the stadium in the picture to the right is 30m high, but the stadium is shown lower. "This is pure deception" [something, as we know, that is not unfamiliar to Mallard]. "Think Big" in a different guise. [Check back later for a properly-scaled sketch of the stadium based on released information.]
- John Minto [yes, that John Minto]: "Trevor Mallard accuses Auckland of "a lack of vision." But when you see Trevor Mallard, so you see "vision"?" When NZ won the 2011 World Cup, it was based on spending $45m for temporary stands to increase the capacity of Eden Park. As a resident, Minto is all in favour of that proposal. And as he pointed out, Mallard has told schools they need to run cake stalls to fund any extras at their schools. "Why doesn't the Eden Park Trust Board start baking cakes to raise their $45m?" [Why not, indeed?]
- Steve [?] Bagley (Auckland Rugby Union): ARU will lose $20m over the World Cup. Waterfront Stadium estimates are "dishonest," he says. Eden Park is costed on $9,000 per seat, which is consistent with the costs of the last eleven stadiums to be built in this part of the world. Waterfront Stadium costed at just $6,000 per seat, plus the plattform and piling, plus the cost of removing the port operations [including extending Bledisloe Wharf by 65m]. Think one billion. At least.
- David Thornton (No More Rates): Three questions still not answered, but we can all guesstimate for ourselves what the answers will be: How much will it cost? At least one billion. Who pays? Us. Who will own it, and who will pay the operating losses? Er ...
- Bill Hodge (constitutional law specialist): Four main legal issues with the ramming through of the waterfront stadium with enabling legislation that are going to cause "immense damage to our constitutional fabric." 1. The common law issues of tort, nuisance etc. that are to be overridden without consultation. 2. The overriding, without consultation, of statutory controls on nuisance, eg, the RMA. 3. The overriding, without consultation, of commercial legislation, such as the Local Government Act, the Port Companies Act and the Public Finance Act. 4. The overriding, without consultation, of Treaty of Waitangi issues. The Government's answer for all four sets of issues is clear: Enabling legislation in the same form as the Thing Big legislation of 1982 for the Clyde Dam that overrides the Local Government Act, the Resource Management Act, the Public Finance Act, the Port Companies Act and others. And therein lies a lesson for any politicians voting in favour of the 2006 version: they should remember what happened to Social Credit, who decided to vote for Muldoon's Thing Big legislation, and were deservedly buried by the voters.
- Rodney Hide (ACT leader): From discussion with Mallard, Mallard has confirmed that for the waterfront stadium to go ahead: 1. he needs a majority from both the Auckland Regional Council and the Auckland City Council (so get those letters, emails and phone calls out to those councillors); 2. he needs the National Party to agree on the Bed Tax, on Enabling Legislation, and on a Kafka-esque Consent Authority to rubber stamp a consent that overrides all the legislative protections outlined by Bill Hodge (so get those emails, letters and phone calls out to all the National MPs, and tell them you don't want a billion dollars of your money wasted on a Monument to Mallard).
Auckland City Council will meet Thursday night to vote on their decision. Auckland Regional Council will meet Friday. Lobbying of National Party MPs will be undertaken all week (look out for deals being done this week). You have just one week to sway the argument.
A PUBLIC PROTEST is organised for AOTEA SQUARE Thursday lunchtime, 12:30pm, in advance of the Auckland City Council vote. Get on down there.
Cathey Casey issued a list of the eight "floating" Auckland City councillors who need to hear from you: Leila Boyle firstname.lastname@example.org, Bill Christian email@example.com, Glenda Fryer firstname.lastname@example.org, John Hinchcliffe email@example.com, Toni Miller firstname.lastname@example.org, Penny Sefuiva email@example.com, Faye Storer firstname.lastname@example.org, Bruce Hucker email@example.com.
Here are the addresses for the Auckland Regional Councillors who need to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;
firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
Auckland's mayors: Bob.Harvey@waitakere.govt.nz; George.Wood@northshorecity.govt.nz;
Auckland's MPs, and those who are (or should be) taking an interest: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;
firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org;
email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com;
firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com; ; firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
And you can contact all the National Party MPs here to discourage them NOT to support either enabling legislation to override existing law, or the imposition of any new taxes: www.national.org.nz. (And, if you're keen, download contact details for all 121 MPs here [pdf].) Tell them you'll remember both at the next election.
Get on to it!
UPDATE: Herald has a report of the meeting, and their own story on how Auckland's councillors will be voting. They claim six councillors are floating, as against Cathy Casey's eight: "Two of those yet to decide - Citizens and Ratepayers Now councillors Doug Armstrong and Toni Millar - indicated last night they would support a waterfront stadium if the Government agreed to build it further east, on Bledisloe Wharf." But as Armstrong wasn't on Casey's list of "floaters" (she had him backing Hubbard) and Bledisloe has already been rejected (as Brian Rudman reports) ... They also have Christian and Storer as Eden Park supporters, and Glenda Fryer as a yes, whereas Casey has all three as "floaters."
It's going to be tight.
RELATED: Stadium, Politics-NZ, Auckland