'I don't think we had much choice' - councillor

Frustrated city councillors say they have been left with no choice but to commit more ratepayers' money to support Forsyth Barr Stadium.

But there is hope the changes will amount to more than ''rearranging the deck chairs'', and that the stadium might finally be on the right path to a secure financial footing, councillors say.

Most of those contacted by the Otago Daily Times yesterday were still digesting the findings of the Dunedin City Council's stadium review, released yesterday, with some reluctant to comment ahead of Monday's meeting.

Cr Richard Thomson, chairman of the council's finance committee, said he supported the review's recommendations, but remained ''enormously frustrated'' by the position in which the council found itself.

The stadium had been built on ''overly optimistic'' budget assumptions, and the ongoing demands for more funding meant other worthwhile projects the city needed had been forced to take a back seat.

However, the stadium had been built, and closing it would only cost the city more, he said.

''The reality is, I don't think we had much choice,'' he said.

''It's there and, whether you think it should or shouldn't be, it's a fantastic facility and we've got to get the most use of it we can.''

Cr Lee Vandervis also welcomed the review's push for greater transparency, but opposed the changes it recommended as ''just a further kick in the guts'' for ratepayers.

''It's simply just accepted [the stadium] is a real dodo and hit the ratepayer even harder than they're already being hit, to keep the doors open.''

He was seeking legal advice on the report's contents, but also blasted council staff yesterday for releasing the report on a ''$30 million decision'' just days before Monday's debate.

''I've been fobbed off for months, and again we're going to get a railroaded report.''

Deputy mayor Chris Staynes said the report ''clearly identified'' the problems facing the stadium, and the need for ''radical change'' if the company running it, DVML, was ever going to make a surplus.

''They've been set up to fail,'' he said.

''I'm not happy, but I'm realistic. If we want [to stop] the annual issue of having to find money to top up the stadium losses, then we need to address that in a sensible way.''

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the review's findings came as no surprise, but, if accepted by councillors next week, would improve transparency.

They would also allow the council and Dunedin Venues Management Ltd to plan ahead, rather than scrambling to plug budget holes each year.

He challenged critics to come up with a better alternative to the review's findings, saying the idea of demolishing the venue had proven to be ''pretty mad''.

Asked if he expected a fight at Monday's meeting, Mr Cull - who ejected Cr Vandervis from the last council meeting - said he expected ''a range of views''.

Cr John Bezett was yet to read the full report, but supported the proposals, while Cr Kate Wilson said the process followed ''makes sense''.

Cr Hilary Calvert supported the push for greater transparency, but questioned whether it would make any real difference.

''I think shifting the debt around is just rearranging the deck chairs, whether or not you are on the Titanic,'' she said.

Crs Neville Peat, Andrew Whiley, Doug Hall and Mike Lord declined to comment yesterday, saying they had not yet read the report.

Crs David Benson-Pope, Jinty MacTavish, Aaron Hawkins and Andrew Noone did not return calls.

Add a Comment



Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter