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Mayor defends Eden Park deal

Monday 18 Feb 2013 10:53 a.m.

Auckland Council has provisionally accepted an offer from sports minister Murray McCully to acquire the Government's interests in Eden Park, the Cloud and Queens Wharf.

But the gift, offered by Sports Minister Murray McCully, comes with significant financial risk, and has some councillors wondering about the impact on ratepayers.

Mayor Len Brown says the deal doesn't put ratepayers at any greater financial risk.

"It's really wrapping up three of the key things the Government invested in through the Rugby World Cup," he told Firstline this morning.

"They took a half share in the wharf, and of course built the Cloud. The Cloud was very popular with Aucklanders. Yeah, a little bit of risk, but look – at this point in time it's certainly paying its own way, and that's without a lot of promotion, so we think the risk is minimal. And the community, Aucklanders love it, so I think we're by and large very pleased with that, very pleased to take the wharf… very pleased with that."

Councillors voted last week 12-7 to accept the offer to take on Eden Park, and unanimously in favour of taking on the Cloud and Queens Wharf. A final decision on the deal will be made next month.

The Cloud cost $10.4 million to build, but is showing signs of rust and may need further work.

Most of the concerns however surround Eden Park, which has debts of around $50 million. Deputy mayor Penny Hulse said she would be wary of taking anything from Mr McCully, and would be "kicking the tyres very hard". Councillor Christine Fletcher said the "gift comes with sharp little thorns", and Cameron Brewer commented the "hand will come out, and it will never stop".

But Mr Brown says Aucklanders already back up Eden Park's debt, and the deal will give them a bigger say in how the stadium is managed.

"What the Government is proposing is we take over the governance role – nothing more nor less than that changes, nothing in terms of the financial obligations. In my view, what that does is help us to oversee what is going on at the park and just keep a closer eye on things.

"I think it is minimal, in terms of the impact, but one or two of the councillors have raised issues and so we'll just have a closer look at it over the next month."

Mr Brown says the park will remain owned by the Eden Park Trust.

"That doesn't change. What it does is gives the ratepayers of Auckland – it's our stadium, it is in Auckland – it does give the council an opportunity to take over the five governance roles, and for me if there's a debt I'd far rather be in a position where we actually have a serious say as to how it's going to go."

Having five of the nine positions on the Eden Park Trust board would give the council a controlling stake in the park's future.

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