'Prudent' council in talks over U-20 World Cup

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull wants Fifa Under-20 World Cup matches at the stadium but is keeping a tight hold on the purse strings, saying a Dunedin MP's call to spend is inconsistent with Government legislation.

Mr Cull said the Fifa report on costs and benefits of hosting the event was confidential.

The costs for hosting packages were initially vague but became clearer as the bid progressed, he said.

''As those costs crystallised, we looked at them as an investment and compared the cost with what we felt the economic benefits to our city would be.''

The figures did not ''stack up'', Mr Cull said.

The council was in a ''prudent spending mode'' as outlined in the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill, he said.

''[The] central Government is saying, through legislation, do not put your rates up any more than you absolutely have to [and] do not take on more debt for anything non-essential.''

The council would not accept the initial Fifa proposals but was negotiating to see if a deal was possible, he said.

Dunedin MP Michael Woodhouse had suggested the council should invest in a bid, Mr Cull said.

''Mr Woodhouse has called for us to reconsider. Clearly, if the figures don't change, we won't be reconsidering, because we've already done it.

''We've already scrutinised it and it's my, and my council's responsibility to spend our ratepayers' money as prudently as we can.''

The discussions with Fifa would continue for a couple of weeks, he said.

Mr Woodhouse said he rejected the claims of inconsistency because the legislation was not designed to interfere with democratic local decision-making.

The council had a festival and events strategy, which put money aside to host an annual premier sporting fixture, Mr Woodhouse said.

And the iD Dunedin Fashion Show, the New Zealand Masters Games, the Lantern Festival and the Dunedin Santa Parade were supported financially by the council and the legislation would not interfere with the funding of those events, he said.

The report on costs and benefits should be made public, he said.

The Christchurch City Council had released information on the potential benefits of hosting the event, Mr Woodhouse said.

''Their business case has 7000 extra visitor nights possible and an injection into their economy of $4 million, for what they believe was a $400,000 investment.''

The mayor's claim the Dunedin bid would cost more than $1 million was ''mischievous'', he said.

''He has told me that they don't intend to bid for the final, nor would they have expected to have got it, anyway.''

- shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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