new auckland

Park bailout ‘like a Lions tour every year’

A residents group which has challenged Eden Park's bids to expand its concerts and night events says a $63 million bailout from Auckland Council for the stadium will benefit the trust by more than the value of a Lions Tour every year.

The Eden Park Neighbours Association chair, Mark Donnelly, said council support for Eden Park had been expected, perhaps in the form of a loan to be repaid if the park was sold for redevelopment in the future.

"While we are surprised $10m was a grant, we're pleased it puts paid to some of the stories going around about it becoming state houses if they didn't get concerts.

"That was never going to be the case and we see this as reaffirming Eden Park's key sporting focus."

Mayor Phil Goff revealed at a council committee meeting on Tuesday, which approved the no-strings-attached grant of $9.8m, that the trust was soon likely to do a deal "which could bring in $600,000 by using the space at Eden Park better".

Donnelly said the council package of a total of $63m in loans and the grant meant the trust could concentrate on its core business "as we're already seeing with things like Nitro Circus and the coming rugby league triple header".

"We understand as well that they will now be working with [Regional Facilities Auckland, the council business that runs Mt Smart, Waitakere, QBE Stadium and Western Springs] on cost savings and this, along with the loans and grants should give them comfort going forward."

He said: "To put the council support into context, the yearly cash injection, and interest savings, make an even better contribution than hosting a Lions tour ever year."

During the finance committee debate that confirmed the $9.8m grant to the trust, a number of councillors criticised RFA for the financial performance at its stadiums and for its venue development strategy, a document yet to be made public or endorsed by the council. 

Councillor Daniel Newman praised Eden Park's performance of making earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) of $6m in 2017 and $3.8m in 2018 - sums eliminated by its costs of current loans and depreciation. "Can you indicate any other organisation running stadia who is achieving anything close to that?" he asked the Eden Park chair, Doug McKay. Newman added there was "only one that has just tipped in to the positive and that's Mt Smart."

The committee heard the RFA Waitakere and QBE stadiums made an $800,000 loss in 2017 and Mt Smart a $700,000 profit.

Councillor Wayne Walker criticised the RFA for putting forward a venue strategy which would require $482m in capital funding with a further $90m for a cricket stadium at Wester Springs, without business cases. "That's more than half a billion dollars."

Auckland Council chief executive Stephen Town said while RFA's board had agreed its venues strategy, the council had not endorsed it, so its projected costs were not included in the report on Eden Park facing councillors this week.

Eden Park and RFA will now have to work closer together. The Trust says it looks forward to a new 'partnering proposal' to be developed between the stadium businesses in the next year, and the council says sharing procurement, coordinating operations and shared staffing has potential for costs savings.

The Eden Park bid to have the Unitary Plan changed to allow concerts as of right has to go first to the council. If the council declines it, it would then go to the Environment Court. Both entities declined the trust's bid for similar freedoms in the past few years when the plan was finalised.

Council officials told councillors the trust had indicated it would seek resource consent for six concerts a year without the need for notification. 

"Additional events are expected to significantly improve the financial performance of Eden Park Trust within a three year period ... the additional operating profit could be around $2-3m a year from 2021."

Donnelly, of the neighbours' association, told Newsroom: "Eden Park has been turned down as a suitable concert venue through multiple independent hearings. Any new proposal won't alter the basic physical constraints that make the site and surrounding area unsuitable for concerts."

That was not only in noise and vibration effects but also the construction of stages and production setup and testing. "Taylor Swift had 36 containers for weeks at Mt Smart and two weeks of stage construction and removal. Along with 58 trucks moving production equipment overnight onto site before and again offsite overnight directly after the concert. That can't happen in a residential area."

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