What is more important for Christchurch? A rugby stadium or social housing?

By   /   May 25, 2018  /   8 Comments

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It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Christchurch city councillors hearing submissions on the council’s long-term plan. A vast range of community groups and individuals, fronted by positive, passionate people concerned for Christchurch’s wellbeing, have presented funding wish lists both great and small. However, there is a finite amount of money and hard decisions need to be made.

It’s been a tough couple of weeks for Christchurch city councillors hearing submissions on the council’s long-term plan. A vast range of community groups and individuals, fronted by positive, passionate people concerned for Christchurch’s wellbeing, have presented funding wish lists both great and small. However, there is a finite amount of money and hard decisions need to be made.

The hardest decision will be whether to bring forward or push back the $253 million budgeted for the proposed “multi-purpose” covered stadium, currently budgeted for 2022-2024. (It’s called a “multi-purpose” stadium but we all know the main drivers of the project and the major beneficiaries will be rugby)

All Black Captain Kieran Reid fronted the rugby union’s plea for funding to be brought forward. Reid says the lack of a stadium “highlights what we’re missing out on – All Black tests, I don’t get to play in my home town, there’s concerts – Ed Sheeran, Elton John. When the stadium was built, I believed I’d get the chance to play in a new stadium. Now, I just hope I have a stadium I can be proud of to take my kids to.”

It was a heartfelt, honest plea.

Crusaders coach Scott Robertson was more blunt. “People are paying to get hailed on. Our stadium is the least suitable stadium in Super Rugby by over 8,000 people”

It’s an optimistic call that a new, covered stadium would bring All Black test matches to Christchurch. The writing is on the wall that commercial demands will mean Eden Park may well be the only venue acceptable for future big test matches.

Nevertheless, a multi-use stadium would be very nice to have for the city.

With Rev Sheena Dickson, I presented a submission which challenged the spending priorities in the draft plan. We think the capital funding for the stadium needs to be put back to allow the city to deal with its most urgent capital spending – the 400 council rental houses destroyed in the earthquakes which have not been rebuilt.

There was already a housing shortage for low income tenants and families before the quakes. Since then the problem has mushroomed – not just in Christchurch but across the country. The best estimate for homelessness in New Zealand is 41,000 with the government announcing in the budget a plan to build a miserly 1600 new state houses each year. Christchurch can only expect a small fraction of these.

The need is critical. So many families are doubled (sometimes tripled) up in homes and each year we see more families living in cars, vans, sheds and garages as well as under bridges.

The council’s draft 10-year plan however sets aside no money to rebuild the quake-destroyed units and the Otautahi Housing Trust, which administers the rental housing for the council, has neither the capacity nor the resources to do so. The council tells us it doesn’t have the money to rebuild these destroyed units and neither does it have the money to rebuild Lancaster Park.

So the two projects stand in line for funding. Neither Lancaster Park nor the 400 housing rental units can be repaired through earthquake insurance. But the council is proposing spending $253 million to replace the stadium but has proposed budgeting nothing for the replacement of the council rental units.

This is wrongheaded.

Families struggling with housing are not as well-connected to the city’s power structures as All Blacks and yet they have needs which vastly outweigh the need for a new covered stadium.

The $250 million budgeted for a stadium could provide at least 700 warm, dry homes for tenants and families. It would be an investment in our city which would bring a return in human development as well as rental income.

The needs of rugby patrons standing in hail to watch a game do not trump the needs of struggling tenants and families for warm, dry homes.

It would be great to hear the Canterbury Rugby Union say that in the wider interests of the people Christchurch they are willing to wait a bit longer.

That’s the kind of leadership that wins hearts and minds.

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8 Comments

  1. Michelle says:

    Yes agree with you John the all blacks all have lovely homes no doubt
    and its not all about rugby people need somewhere to live. But they will argue the economic case how rugby and concerts bring money to the region. Yet we have just had 9 years of laisse faire policy under the gnat brigade its time we had some balance.

  2. Mike the Lefty says:

    Why should it be a case of EITHER the rugby stadium or social housing?
    There should be room for both.
    There would be if the rugby union, national and local business owners and associations, chambers of commerce, etc. took more responsibility for funding arenas that bring in the money that goes mainly to them.
    If they want these places built it is them that need to cough up the dough.
    Just like why should the government be helping to fund a billionaires’ yacht race?
    If central or local government helps funds such arenas and events to put money into the pockets of the already rich it should be on the basis of a shareholder or investor – with some of the profits going back to the people that need it most.

  3. Denny Paoa says:

    Maybe all the rugby clubs could run a sausage sizzle or two to raise money?
    Maybe the NZRFU could become lead project manager of fundraising!?
    Maybe even turn the site into a SHA and build houses there and relocate the stadium to or near Belfast or Kaiapoi?
    Where’s the creative thinking in Ch-Ch local politics? Or, dont build a fucking stadium until the quakes have settled!

  4. Afewknowthetruth says:

    Corporatised sport is just one of many mechanisms for siphoning money out of the pockets of ‘proles’ and into the coffers of corporations and opportunists.

    Councils use boondoggles, such as rugby stadiums, to siphon money out of ratepayers’ bank accounts and into the bank accounts of local opportunists and corporations. This creates the false impression that progress is being made when in fact everything councils do contributes inordinately to the collapse which is underway.

    Council officers and elected councillors repeatedly demonstrate how incapable of rational thinking they are, as they formulate so-called plans in the vacuum chambers of council buildings, places where irrefutable facts have no place, and where policy is decided on the basis of unsubstantiated opinion.

    It is perfectly obvious to anyone with a brain that the present system has no long term future because the present system is predicated on squandering huge amounts of energy and resources and generating huge amounts of pollution (hundreds of times faster than the Earth’s systems can process it).

  5. let me be frank says:

    You’re right…and I think we all know which direction will be taken

  6. Jim says:

    I agree with every word you say, John.

  7. LOLBAGZ says:

    Big opportunity for a low cost private provider but they THEY keep putting the stumbling blocks on the micro houses options. Or do they

  8. Marc says:

    Of course, a STADIUM is ‘more important’, as people have learned to sleep and live in cars, vans, caravans, garages and even on park benches. As long as those still reasonably well off middle class and upper middle class people do well, they won’t worry all that much, as their rugby and cricket will be a high priority, hence a need for a STADIUM.

    Look at other places in the world, they have middle class and upper middle class people in many places and cities, also in such like Rio, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Kinshasa, Lagos, Cairo and Mumbai.

    Some do just fine, enjoying a trip to their stadiums, they step over the ‘riff raff’ if they lie sleeping in the street or on the footpaths.

    No problem at all, welcome to the future of NZ Inc..