The Forsyth Barr Stadium is rising from the Awatea St
dirt at a remarkable rate, but while the opening day closes in,
the end of the debate about the issue does not. Senior Dunedin
City Council reporter David Loughrey looks at the latest
flash-point issue, in the context of a looming local body
The Forsyth Barr Stadium, pictured from Doon St, Waverley,
with the north Dunedin suburb of Dalmore in the background.
Photo by Peter McIntosh.
It is difficult to believe, with the Forsyth Barr Stadium an
increasingly imposing presence on the Dunedin waterfront,
that one year ago a final decision on the project was yet to
The proposed building was still called the Otago Stadium, the
various High Court and Court of Appeal cases brought against
the proposal had yet to fully occupy the minds of the legal
fraternity, and a district-plan change to allow a new
"stadium zone" at the site had only recently been approved.
It is just nine months since Justice Lester Chisholm
disagreed with opposition group Stop the Stadium lawyer Len
Andersen's argument the project had changed significantly
between annual plans, and needed to go out for further
It is a mere five months since the group's last legal avenue,
a Court of Appeal hearing in Wellington, ended with a win for
the Dunedin City Council.
By that time, the horse had well and truly bolted, and the
stadium was rising quickly from the Awatea St dirt, as it has
continued to do since that time.
But, just as quickly as the stadium has progressed, the next
local body elections are approaching.
The stadium will, no doubt, be a major election issue,
something clearly alluded to at a meeting this week when
stadium supporter Cr Michael Guest told his fellow
councillors opposed to the project they would be "judged" by
voters come election day.
Stadium opponent Cr Dave Cull responded: "You're on."
Asked his views on the electorate's thinking on the stadium,
Cr Guest said he was referring at the meeting to councillors
who were voting against receiving a report, rather than the
substantive issues, something he described as "petty".
But he hoped the stadium would not be the major election
Instead, he hoped Dunedin's voters would make their decision
based on wider issues of the council's stewardship of the
Asked whether he had views on the possible public response to
councillors' voting patterns on the stadium, he said he did
However: "I think now that we see it rising from the ashes,
and we see the quality of the people we've got on the
management team, I think the people of Dunedin are really
excited about [the stadium]."
October's vote should not be about "payback", but about who
were the best people to run the city, he said.
For Cr Cull, the debate had never been about the stadium
itself, but the risks, the affordability, and the opportunity
costs of the project.
Cr Cull and his Greater Dunedin team of Crs Kate Wilson and
Chris Staynes have consistently voted against the stadium, as
have Crs Fliss Butcher and Teresa Stevenson.
Asked how he felt the electorate now viewed the issue, Cr
Cull said while the stadium was a reality, voters would
consider how responsible were the people who made decisions
to impose such high levels of spending, debt and risk on the
He also questioned whether the councillors who struggled to
win votes last time did so because of their personalities,
rather than their views on the stadium.
He did not know how the electorate would respond but
councillors were putting themselves "on offer" to the
How councillors had kept residents' financial and social
interests at heart was a matter for them.