Christchurch bid to host games could be backed by Nelson

Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub would require significant upgrades to host the Commonwealth Games. Photo:...
Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub would require significant upgrades to host the Commonwealth Games. Photo: Sport Canterbury
Nelson has emerged as a potential co-host for any ambitious Christchurch bid to host the Commonwealth Games, boosting Mayor Phil Mauger’s controversial vision.

Nick Smith.
Nick Smith.
Although Mauger’s interest in Christchurch staging the 2030 Games, or a later edition, has been met with widespread disbelief locally, his counterpart in Nelson, former National MP and cabinet minister Nick Smith, is willing to entertain the prospect of a joint venture.

When Mauger successfully lobbied city councillors to vote for a staff-led feasibility study on hosting the Games last month, he reiterated any bid would involve other cities in the South Island or elsewhere in New Zealand.

Outside support is vital to spread the financial burden of holding an event that is becoming increasingly unattractive in Commonwealth countries capable of hosting the quadrennial sporting spectacle.
Christchurch would utilise existing facilities at the Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub, Parakiore Recreation and Sports Centre, Te Kaha – Christchurch Stadium and the Town Hall rather than build new venues, so

Invercargill’s velodrome would be a prime option for track cycling.

In more potentially good news for Mauger, the Southland Indoor Leisure Centre Charitable Trust, which runs the velodrome, did not discount involvement.

“We would be open to working with others to bring any events to the venue,” said Trust chair and Southland District Council councillor Darren Frazer.

“We have an amazing track and are home to some of the world’s best riders.”

There had not been a formal approach to city or district councils, though when contacted by The Star Smith was receptive to a bid encompassing the South Island.  

“It’s early days and Nelson is up for the conversation. We’re prepared to look at it with an open mind. We could be a partner for some sports if it (a bid) was to proceed,” said Smith, who talked up the city’s multifaceted Saxton Field.

“I think it’s a good initiative by Mayor Mauger. It’s longshot but it’d be wrong to completely rule it out. 

“The big question is what additional facilities would be required and what level of support would be available from the government if major facility upgrades were required.

“The key is we’d have to be convinced the economic benefits outweigh the costs.”

While Smith was happy to crystal ball gaze, a Dunedin City Council spokesperson said the organisation had not considered the possibility of a joint bid.

Christchurch surfaced as a potential replacement for Canadian province Alberta once its bid for 2030 was withdrawn on financial grounds last August, weeks after Australian state Victoria pulled out of hosting the 2026 Games for the same reason.

Smith hoped the Commonwealth Games Federation, which selects the event’s host, would reassess its criteria after Victoria pulled out.

“I’m hoping they have become a bit more realistic about the cost impacts on communities,” he said.

The Commonwealth Games Federation stipulates the chosen city or region must stage athletics and swimming, with other locations able to be hosted elsewhere.

Presenting the Games premier events poses problems for Christchurch with Ngā Puna Wai and an under-construction Parakiore the only viable options.

Halswell Ward councillor Andrei Moore’s territory covers Ngā Puna Wai and doubts it would be equipped to handle an event of the Games’ magnitude unless the Federation relaxed its criteria.

“You would have to invest a huge amount of money into getting it ready to keep them happy. At this point in time they need a red carpet rolled out at every single facility,” he said.

“By the time you fit in the athletes, their people and the media you’ve already got a seat shortage and zero spectators.

“You could put up temporary seating like they did (at Hagley Oval) for the Cricket World Cup (in 2022) but would that satisfy them (the Federation)? My thinking is probably not.”

Even with temporary seating the Ngā Puna Wai track would struggle to accommodate 15,000 people. 

While Te Kaha could potentially hold the opening and closing ceremonies, Moore doubted it would meet Federation approval without an athletics track for the participants to march around.

Moore joined Smith in hoping the Commonwealth Games Federation would reassess its hosting requirements.

“They need to revamp the event entirely to make it sustainable and feasible. Cities should be holding off on bidding until they do that,” he said.

“There’s not a single facility in New Zealand that wouldn’t require a huge amount of capital investment in it to satisfy the Federation.”