Government is ignoring us: Cull

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has criticised the Government for ''pouring'' money into Auckland and Christchurch - including for a new covered stadium - at the expense of the regions.

And he has hinted he believes the spend-up in those cities is because the Government already has an eye on next year's general election.

It was confirmed this week the Government planned to contribute $2.9 billion towards big-ticket projects as part of Christchurch's central-city rebuild. That included $37 million towards the $290 million cost of a new 35,000-seat covered stadium in the central city, as well as the entire cost of a $284 million convention centre.

Both facilities will compete with Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium and the conference facilities run by Dunedin Venues Management Ltd.

Mr Cull yesterday told the Otago Daily Times there was no doubt the new venue would compete with Dunedin's covered venue, although the true cost of building it was likely to be more like $500 million. However, Mr Cull questioned why the Government appeared to be ''pouring money into Christchurch ... beyond what is necessary to bring it back to where it was''.

''There seems to be a preoccupation with central government with only Christchurch and Auckland, and I wonder whether that's do to with the 2014 election.

''My concern is regional centres around the country are being ignored because the Government's pouring resource and investment in only two directions.

''In the long run you can't have a healthy, prosperous, vibrant New Zealand if only two parts of it are developing.''

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee's office did not respond to a request for comment yesterday, and Christchurch City Council staff declined to answer questions about the stadium project.

Mr Cull's comments came after New Zealand Post announced this week it was closing mail centres and axing staff - including in Dunedin - to centralise more of its operations into main centres, including Christchurch.

And, yesterday, the Government confirmed it would share the cost of major transport projects in Auckland, including the $2.86 billion city rail loop, together worth about $10 billion.

Mr Cull said the focus on New Zealand's largest cities was coming at the expense of the regions and was ''not a healthy thing''.

''You prejudice the development of the regional centres and you actually put more pressure on an already-clogged development process in Christchurch and Auckland, and you actually exacerbate some of the issues they're having.''

However, the Government's spending plans in Christchurch would still leave the city's ratepayers to pay $253 million towards the new covered stadium, and doubts remained over exactly when it would be built.

Mr Brownlee appeared to favour a push to build it in time for the 2017 British and Irish Lions rugby tour, while Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker wanted a ''flexible'' timeframe that put homes, communities and roads first, The Press reported.

DVML chief executive Darren Burden said he wished Christchurch ''the best of luck'', but was also not sure the stadium could be built - with a roof - for $290 million.

''There is undoubtedly going to be some cost escalation,'' he said.

If built, however, a bigger and newer covered venue in a larger population centre meant Dunedin's stadium would ''clearly'' face more competition for events.

That was likely to be several years away, at least, but some form of new venue in Christchurch was ''always going to happen'', he believed.

In the meantime, DVML needed to build on the good working relationships it had established with sports organisations and event promoters, which would stand Dunedin's venue in good stead in later years, he said.

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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