ORC funding wobbles over stadium

[comment caption=Should the ORC be putting money into the stadium?] Hearing opposition to the Otago Regional Council's proposal to put $37.5 million towards the Awatea St stadium was a "sobering" experience, Carisbrook Stadium Trust chairman Malcolm Farry said.

After listening to submissions to the council's annual plan and draft long-term council community plan yesterday, Mr Farry said the regional council's funding was a "fundamental issue in the stadium going ahead".

Hearing panel member Cr Michael Deaker said during the six days of submissions on the plans, the panel had been told "12 to one, not to have a bar" of funding the stadium.

"I'm not sure we can . . . ignore a 12 to one ratio, no matter what the long-term benefits may be."

His previous "fervent" support for the stadium was becoming "very wobbly indeed", Cr Deaker said.

Regional council chairman Stephen Cairns said there was a real possibility the council could say "No" to the funding.

Would a refusal mean the project was dead?

Mr Farry said: "Yes. 'I say it's dead".

Personally, he believed it would be unwise to take the project forward without a roof which, coincidentally, would cost a similar amount to the regional council's proposed contribution.

The council's contribution was conditional on a roof being built.

All funds had to be in hand before the stadium would go ahead, Mr Farry said.

The hearing panel, which also includes David Shepherd, Crs Doug Brown and Duncan Butcher (chairman), put to Mr Farry the concerns expressed in submissions, including the possibility of cost blowouts, the questions over it being multipurpose, what the peer reviews meant and achieving private funding.

Mr Farry acknowledged difficulty in getting the multipurpose message through, when there were conference, seminar and function spaces in the design.

"It'll be used by rugby only 20 days a year.

''We're not interested in spending $188 million for 20 days a year."

He hoped any risk of professional rugby leaving Otago would be eliminated before any contract was signed.

Cost escalations had been factored in, as the trust knew concrete and steel would increase in price, but true costs would not be known until the work was contracted out.

"Any blowout above $188 million - that's it."

The hearings were adjourned yesterday afternoon for the panel to consider the submissions.

It will put its recommendations to the finance and corporate committee on June 11, before consideration by the full council on June 25.


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