Stadium funding 'conduit' offer from MP

Michael Woodhouse
Michael Woodhouse
New National Party list MP Michael Woodhouse is offering to be a "conduit" in any approach for government funding of the $188 million Awatea St Stadium.

Mr Woodhouse said yesterday he had already brought the stadium funding issue to the attention of Finance and Infrastructure Minister Bill English and made him aware of the timetable to which the project was operating.

"While Bill appreciates the timetable, obviously the [Carisbrook Stadium] trust needs to appreciate he's only got his feet under the table now and there is a lot to be done."

Trust chairman Malcolm Farry said last week the stadium would be "a strong candidate to attract central Government investment as part of regional economic development and New Zealand's preparation for the 2011 Rugby World Cup".

Since taking office, Mr English has announced a $70 billion, 10-year infrastructure plan, with the Government bringing forward housing, roading and school projects.

However, he has not, so far, responded to ODT questions about whether a stadium might be considered "infrastructure" and therefore qualify for government assistance.

Mr Woodhouse said while he personally supported the stadium in principle, "it's another matter altogether whether that extends to government funding for such an asset and I honestly don't have a view on that at the moment."

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide does have a view, and it is less than encouraging.

He told the Otago Daily Times from Wellington that while he believed "almost anything" might be considered infrastructure, "what we're looking at is infrastructure that benefits the economy. I don't think it's of the infrastructure that the Government's looking to push".

Mr Hide believed the Government should not increase its spending during the current economic downturn.

"In fact, I would say that is the worst thing you could possibly do. I know that it's always fashionable for politicians in times of crises to think that the answer is to spend more money and taxpayers and ratepayers to spend less. I'm not in that camp."

Mr Hide said the stadium was a decision for the Dunedin City Council but that he "would have thought" councillors would be mindful of the survey showing more than 70% of residents were against ratepayer funding for the project.

Mr Hide said he would be taking "a good hard look" at how councils were spending ratepayers' money.

"We've seen a lot of examples of councils coming along with plans that are going to pay for themselves, or offer an economic return, when they don't."

He believed local government should be reassessing its spending, and councils going to him looking for money would leave with advice.

"I tend to say, 'are you looking at spending wisely what you've got?' and 'have you thought about what you are spending it on?' Because, that is what every ratepayer is having to do right now."

• The Australian Government recently announced it would provide its councils and shires with $350 million for spending on infrastructure, with up to $2 million available for stadiums.


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