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"Party Central" venue war of words goes on and on

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, July 8 NZPA - The venue for next year's World Cup "Party Central" is likely to be changed after Auckland Regional Council's about-face on plans for Auckland's Queen's Wharf, Prime Minister John Key says.

Mr Key, who is in China, said he was frustrated by the latest development.

The ARC yesterday voted in favour of transforming one of two 98-year-old cargo sheds into the World Cup fan-hub and also a cruise ship terminal.

The sheds were scheduled to be demolished and replaced with a temporary glass and steel structure -- the option favoured by the Government.

Now the ARC's plan is to renovate one shed, Shed 10, and dismantle and move the other, and also build the temporary structure.

Both ARC chairman Mike Lee and Cabinet Minister Murray McCully said in April they couldn't imagine retaining the sheds which Mr Lee described as "old, cheap and nasty".

But after the New Zealand Historic Places Trust became involved and pushed to save the sheds the ARC changed its tune.

Mr Key said he was open to looking for another site in Auckland where a temporary structure could be erected.

The Government originally bought Queens Wharf with a cruise ship terminal in mind and while that had fallen over, he hoped eventually that the site could be used for that.

"That said, we've never been a great supporter of keeping those sheds. It would be a substantial cost and we actually don't think they have any great particular beauty. So what I'm going to do when I get back to New Zealand is start having a look at what other alternatives are available," he said.

He said the Government would look at possible options for a Party Central base, "...but I don't think in all good conscience, I can put up a enormous amount of either ratepayer or taxpayer dollars for something that doesn't really seem to have a long term strategic plan because (for the life of me) I can't see how those sheds fit into a long term cruise ship terminal."

Mr Key said he was not angry about the Auckland decision but was frustrated and said he did not see where the council would get the money from to restore the shed.

"So, really I've got no other alternative but to say if we can't make this current structure work, and we've done everything we can to try to make that happen, including trying to be flexible, putting up cash, let's see if there's another alternative."

He did not think it would affect planning for the cup as putting up a temporary structure somewhere else was a "pretty simple exercise".

Labour MPs said the latest problem reflected a lack of government leadership.

The party's Rugby World Cup spokesman, Trevor Mallard, said it was obvious two weeks ago that the plans for Queen's Wharf were getting bogged down, but it appeared none of the responsible ministers was on the job.

"I know from my own dealings with the waterfront stadium debate that these things in Auckland are often neither simple nor smooth."

Labour's Auckland issues spokesman Phil Twyford said it seemed the Government was standing around helplessly while its plans for the venue turned to custard.

"We have a Rugby World Cup Minister, a Minister of Infrastructure, a Minister of Transport and a Prime Minister - three of them are Auckland MPs and none of them can get it right," he said.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, which was the leading advocate for keeping the sheds, today added its support to the ARC's proposal to keep the shed.

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