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Govt and ARC heading for "party central" showdown

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

NZPA political reporters

Wellington, July 9 NZPA - The Government and Auckland Regional Council are heading for a showdown over the unravelled plans for a Rugby World Cup "party central" venue in the city.

The situation was a shambles last night after the ARC decided it didn't want to go along with the Government's plan to demolish two century-old sheds on Queen's Wharf and put up a glass and steel structure where fans could party.

Instead it wants to renovate one of the sheds, remove the other and put up an additional structure which hasn't yet been designed.

With just over a year to go before the World Cup, ministers are worried and frustrated.

"You come to Auckland where there is this train wreck of a local government and frankly it's very difficult to do business," said Murray McCully, minister in charge of the World Cup.

"Nothing could be as bad as what we have at the moment... Auckland seems to have this terrible local government disease and the closer we got to local body elections here it's getting worse."

Mr McCully said there was no way the shed could be restored in time for the World Cup, but whatever happened there would be a party venue in the city.

"We have to provide a fan zone in downtown Auckland for those who can't get to the games, that's part of our contractual obligation to the IRB (International Rugby Board)."

The Government and the ARC bought Queen's Wharf as a joint venture to develop it for the World Cup and a cruise ship terminal.

Earlier yesterday Mr McCully was reported to have given the ARC an ultimatum -- go along with the Government's plan, or buy out its share in the wharf.

Prime Minister John Key, who championed the "party central" concept for the wharf, said an alternative venue might have to be found.

Mr Key and Mr McCully think the ARC's plan would be prohibitively expensive compared with the $19.4 million for the Government's temporary structure.

"I don't think, in all good conscience, that I can put up an enormous amount of either ratepayer or taxpayer dollars for something that doesn't really seem to have a long-term strategic plan," Mr Key told reporters in Beijing where he is on an official visit.

The ARC last night issued a statement saying it was acutely aware of the time factor.

"The options we are exploring will preserve Auckland's waterfront heritage, provide for its economy by better serving the growing cruise ship industry and it can still be delivered in time for the Rugby World Cup," it said.

Auckland City Mayor John Banks got into the act with a brief statement saying he wanted to talk about making the Rugby World Cup a success, and wouldn't be making any further comment.

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