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Erica Stanford battles council to save North Harbour Stadium

Author
Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Wed, 17 Apr 2024, 3:39pm

Erica Stanford battles council to save North Harbour Stadium

Author
Bernard Orsman,
Publish Date
Wed, 17 Apr 2024, 3:39pm

National MP Erica Stanford has caused a stir in council circles for fronting a campaign to save North Harbour Stadium from the wrecking ball. 

After being accused of “talking up mistruths” over the stadium by a senior adviser to Mayor Wayne Brown, the MP for East Coast Bays today put up a video on her Facebook for the “next phase” of the campaign. 

The video points people to a “Save our Stadium” petition that claims a “wordy proposal” for redevelopment would allow the council to demolish the stadium and sell land. 

Stanford’s video has set off alarm bells at the council’s events arm, Tātaki Auckland Unlimited(TAU), who “categorically” reject any idea of demolishing the stadium and selling land. 

Erica Stanford MP for East Coast Bays appearing in a video to save North Harbour stadium. Erica Stanford MP for East Coast Bays appearing in a video to save North Harbour stadium. 

TAU pointed to Brown’s proposals in the long-term plan (LTP) for North Harbour Stadium in which he backed off an earlier idea of pulling down the “white elephant” next year to a new proposal to redevelop the stadium precinct, funded partly from selling some land in the precinct. 

Two other proposals in the LTP are to keep the existing stadium at Albany and change the operational management. 

The redevelopment option would involve removing the stadium’s distinctive roof and downsizing it from 25,000 seats to 8000. 

Councillors will decide on the future of North Harbour Stadium when they finalise the LTP, also known as the 10-year budget, before the end of June. 

Writing on the issue this month, TAU deputy chairwoman Jennah Wootten, who was educated on the Shore, said emotions are running high and “unfortunately, misinformation about options for the stadium’s future is being spread widely”. 

“Having listened to a range of North Shore leaders, and knowing the changing world of sport and entertainment, TAU’s clear preference is for option 2(redevelopment). It would create an amazing legacy for future generations; and we’d stop pouring ratepayers’ money into a stadium that isn’t working for anybody anymore,” said Wooten. 

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited deputy chairwoman Jennah Wootten. Photo / PhotosportTātaki Auckland Unlimited deputy chairwoman Jennah Wootten. Photo / Photosport 

In her video, Stanford thanked people for their passion to save North Harbour Stadium, which is located at Albany in her electorate. 

“We need to keep the pressure on Auckland Council to make sure they keep the stadium as it is and put it under new management,” she said. 

The stadium, built in 1997, is home to New Zealand Football, North Harbour Rugby, the Marist North Harbour Rugby Club, Harbour Sport and, until recently, the Auckland Tuatara baseball team. 

The stadium has hosted international fixtures in rugby, football, baseball and other sports. But in recent years it has not been used as frequently as Go Media Stadium (formerly Mt Smart) or Eden Park, and has not managed to draw large crowds. 

Stanford has not responded to an online outburst from Simon Johnston, an adviser in the mayoral office who wrote that in his view it was “very sad that a few local councillors and local MP are talking up mistruths without any reason except self-ego”. 

“Very sad. Same 2 selfish councillors who are anti-change at other stadiums and do not want progress on Auckland. Their bullying tactics on Auckland Council staff and stadium staff is personal. Pity the local National MP supports this behaviour,” he wrote in his opinion. 

Simon Johnston's post on LinkedIn making remarks about Auckland Councillors and Erica Stanford.
Simon Johnston's post on LinkedIn making remarks about Auckland Councillors and Erica Stanford. 

The councillors Johnston referred to are John Watson and Wayne Walker, who represent the Albany Ward where the sadium is located. They have complained to council chief executive Phil Wilson in a letter. 

Johnston has deleted the offending comment and apologised to the councillors and Stanford. 

A mayoral spokesperson said the comments did not reflect the views of the mayor or the mayoral office, saying posting the comment fell short of the standard expected of council staff. 

Bernard Orsman is an Auckland-based reporter who has been covering local government and transport since 1998. He joined the Herald in 1990 and worked in the parliamentary press gallery for six years. 

This article was originally published on the NZ Herald here. 

 

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