Making the best of Dunedin’s stadium

Does Forsyth Barr Stadium count as an indoor venue under the new protocol?
Forsyth Barr Stadium. Photo: ODT files
What happens with Christchurch’s covered stadium remains of intense interest to Dunedin.

No matter the optimistic words from Dunedin about Forsyth Barr Stadium, any Christchurch facility threatens big events like those Dunedin has hosted plenty of during the past 10 years — tier-one rugby tests and big music concerts.

The latest news from Christchurch is that the preliminary detailed designs to be drawn up will reduce the capacity from the proposed 30,000 seats to 25,000 seats.

While this is helpful for Dunedin, the effect should not be overstated.

Christchurch still hopes to find savings to put in another 2500 seats, and there are plans to seek money from neighbouring local district councils and the Canterbury Regional Council.

A petition to keep to earlier capacity is gathering thousands of signatures.

It has been said that up to 36,000 spectators could still enter the stadium for concerts because of a concrete slab at the southern end of the pitch. The extra 2500 seats could go there.

As well, Christchurch itself has several inherent advantages over Dunedin.

Christchurch and environs have a population at least three times that of greater Dunedin. It has far more wealth and far more business and potential backing and sponsorship.

It has far, far more flights from Wellington and Auckland and other centres, and far more accommodation.

Logistically, the biggest rugby games and the big concerts can be run more easily and perhaps, crucially, with better financial returns from Christchurch. Higher prices could well be charged for tickets.

At least Dunedin — with its 30,000 capacity when the scaffolding goes up for the Otago Daily Times Stand at the eastern end of the ground — will still be in the game.

Cricket knows what it is like when Christchurch is presented with the shiny new ball.

Since the first test over was bowled at the current Hagley Oval in 2014, the ground has hosted eight cricket tests.

The University Oval, despite its attractions and improved pitch, has hosted just two, the last in the 2016-17 season.

The soaring price of steel and increased shipping costs are blamed for an estimated Christchurch price overrun of $130million, pushing the 30,000-seat estimate out to about $600million.

It is recognised that, apart from a Super Rugby final and test rugby, the 25,000 would be sufficient.

Even the Crusaders chief executive said the recommended design, which includes a sophisticated concourse, struck a good balance between amenities, quality and cost-effectiveness.

The franchise is sick of its makeshift Addington ground and desperate for progress.

Nonetheless, there still should be doubts whether a second indoor stadium is justifiable for a population as small as that of the South Island.

And the costs in Christchurch are huge when so many other needs remain unmet.

The South is justifiably miffed that the Government came up with only $15 million for Dunedin but has found $220 million for Christchurch.

That second figure would have just about paid for the full Dunedin stadium, based on the prices in about 2010 and the competitive contracts then secured.

Politics dictates no help from National. There are far more voters in Christchurch, and National’s Gerry Brownlee even now claims the 25,000 is ridiculously small.

Dunedin Venues boss Terry Davies has in the past talked up the prospects of Dunedin, vis-a-vis a new northern stadium. That is what you would expect, no matter the actual challenge.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins, too, praised Dunedin’s indoor stadium after the latest news from Christchurch.

That was not just because of the building and the turf, but also the way the entire city got behind big events, he said.

Good point.

He and predecessor Dave Cull might not always have been stadium supporters. But once the stadium was built, most people have recognised the best course is to make the best of it.

That is what should have, and has, happened.


View all

Christchurch has one huge advantage over Dunedin when it comes to a stadium. The stadium is located in Christchurch not Dunedin. Dunedin is run by the same group of losers who have run the place into the ground for years. They want to keep the same people's pockets filled with money and bleed everybody else dry. Dunedin lacks the infastructure to support the stadium. There is a shortage of hotels and accomodations. Hotels here are shabby and old. The roads can't support increased traffic loads. Bars and restaurants are equally shabby and old. Face it, Dunedin is a place people drive through enroute to a destination. When was their an original thought from the DCC? I'm not talking idiotic thoughts like the COVID-19 bubble fiasco. I mean a real thought that was good for the city as a whole? Never. These people running the city squander our money on stupid ideas. Consequently, Dunedin moves more towards a 3 world city. I'll gladly go to Christchurch and use their stadium for a more enjoyable experience in the 1st world

Absolutely spot-on response.

Ain't that the truth! Well said my friend...well said!

Yep, couldn't agree more, summed up concisely. If it wasn't for the people, the vibe, the location and the natural beauty.....well, let's just say the DCC and it current and past couple of mayors are/were hardly inspirational for the city that pays them.....each and every time, they snatch defeat from the jaws of success.

Actually, "to make the best of what we have"....turn it into a green house and grow medicinal cannabis. That will turn a profit for the city!

Interesting comments from folk who probably need to go live in the war zone called Christchurch to appreciate how much nicer things are here.
The Chin Council saddled us with the stadium debt, and it's tied the hands of every council since. Private interests not paying their way, and parasitising the public purse - a familiar story in NZ.
It created pressure on other council owned entities like Aurora and Dunedin Railways to pay a dividend to meet debt servicing costs. And look at those entities now.
If this idea (a) helps the stadium compete with Christchurch's white elephant, and (b) doesn't cost ratepayers, then it's most worthy of our support.

Yes, you are totally correct Tangent, Christchurch certainly has been a war zone, I have family living the realities there. The other reality is the amount of money and support a new stadium for Christchurch has available. Unlike the Dunedin Stadium. And yes, the Chin Council most certainly did, in a very controversial climate, push ahead with the stadium.
I was pointing out that the current and a couple of previous Mayors and their council are all equally responsible for the lack of profit. Chin may well have created the problem, but suscessive councils and Mayors have failed to see it for the White Elephant it is. It's time to repurpose what was an ill concieved project to start with. No one, council CEO's, Mayors nor any managers, have in anyway been able to turn a profit from it. Its a flippin millstone around ratepayer necks. The only reason we have had the very small success that we have, is simply because Christchurch has indeed been a war zone. Leave the stadium facilities to the larger population with larger funds. It's been a decade, time to let it go, repurpose it into hotels, parking, a green house, a manufacturing plant...whatever will turn a positive dollar.

View all


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