Eden Park turf war

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The boggy bit of Eden Park is not so much the stadium’s ageing turf, but the political morass in which the venue’s future lies.

There’s the Government which appoints five of the nine Eden Park Trust Board trustees, but insists it’s not bailing out the stadium’s ailing finances.

There’s Auckland Council which guarantees repayment of the board’s $40 million loan to ASB, possibly next year, but then wants a bigger say in what happens next.

There’s the Trust Board which says it needs the council to cough up $1.5 million to replace an ageing turf that it can’t afford.

And now, around the sometimes fractious council table, there are councillors who could make an election year issue of mayor Phil Goff’s go-it-alone approach on all things stadia.

There was nothing random about the publication last week of an 18-month-old letter, from the Trust Board, seeking mayoral support for the council paying the cost of the turf renewal.

It was a bid which Goff rejected without consulting councillors.

That’s become a hot issue for a group of councillors critical of what they see as a mayor, keeping them out of the loop.

Soon after election Goff unilaterally commissioned a report on the feasibility of a new downtown stadium.

The cost ballooned to $935,000 and became public only after I successfully objected to the Ombudsman, who ruled most of it should not have been withheld for six months.

Upon release, the mayor’s office refused to let councillors have unrestricted access to the full version.

Those wounds have been reopened with Goff alone rejecting the turf bid, and opting for the council to pursue a wider financial strategy, that now seems to be in trouble.

Stuff understands Eden Park was told not to lobby for money in the council’s 10 Year Budget process, as another plan was in train.

Councillors in May resolved behind closed doors to pursue that more complicated deal to help out Eden Park.

It involved the council underwriting a certain level of revenue for the Trust Board, but only if the Government also agreed to guarantee a $3.2 million half share.

The government said “no”.

So the Trust Board missed its chance at a budget bid, missed the underwrite, and things are a now little tetchy.

One councillor is understood to have revealed the failed turf bid, and to be looking at ways to get the issue before councillors – against the mayor’s will.

The council still hopes the government will step in, but nothing has reached government officials.

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