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Blues vs. Crusaders at Eden Park, February 2019 (Photo: Getty Images)
Blues vs. Crusaders at Eden Park, February 2019 (Photo: Getty Images)

The BulletinFebruary 18, 2019

The Bulletin: No clear solutions for Eden Park crisis

Blues vs. Crusaders at Eden Park, February 2019 (Photo: Getty Images)
Blues vs. Crusaders at Eden Park, February 2019 (Photo: Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: No good solutions for financial crisis at Eden Park, sharp response to NZ-China tourism stories, and Devonport fruit store owner faces heavy fruit fly costs.

The biggest stadium in New Zealand is under severe, ruinous financial pressure. The full extent of Eden Park’s strife has been revealed, along with what they’re asking for from Auckland Council to stay afloat.

The story came out first on Newsroom, who reported that Eden Park needs more than $60 million to cover debts, on top of a $40 million guarantee that has already been provided by Auckland Council. The biggest question in all of that is where that money is going to come from. An answer is provided by Stuff’s Todd Niall, who writes that “Eden Park is not council-owned but the council is its only lifeline.” The Trust have not formally asked for the $65 million to be covered, but it’s incredibly unlikely to come from anywhere else. Even though a majority of the Eden Park Trust’s board are government appointed (after $190 million of public money was ploughed in a decade ago) it remains owned by the Trust.

It’s a mess, basically, and it’s made even messier by cost blowouts down the road at Western Springs. The NZ Herald reports the plans for the new home of cricket are now up to $91 million – back in 2015 it was meant to be a $12 million project. Mt Smart Stadium will also need a shedload of money spent on it in a decade to remain fit for use, and QBE Stadium on the North Shore is also going to undergo renovations to make it smaller, and a better fit for the area.

Meanwhile, there’s still the proposal to build a big, flash, new stadium down on the waterfront that apparently won’t cost the public any money. But are you starting to see a pattern here? Stadiums become financial millstones, and someone has to pay the bill. Evidence of their dubious economic value to the city can be found in this analysis from Stanford University. They’re vulnerable to economic downturns. So if a waterfront stadium is built, how long will it be before some public purse or other is raided? That’s not to mention as well all the desperately needed construction resources that will have to be diverted to build it, and the whopping carbon emissions that would be produced in the process.

Perhaps Eden Park just needs to host more events? Unfortunately, they can’t – the sort of lucrative music events that could keep the stadium solvent just aren’t allowed, because of opposition from local residents. Put it like this: the guy promoting the Elton John tour to NZ told Newshub he doesn’t even bother approaching Eden Park anymore for shows like that. Interestingly, there are now two groups purporting to represent local residents, with the newer one (the Eden Park Residents Association) saying they’ll fight for the stadium to have a future – in the words of Toby Morris of The Spinoff, you could call them YIMBYs.

Part of the proposal for the waterfront stadium involved Eden Park being bowled, and housing put in the space instead. Speaking personally, I wonder if it’s time to take that idea further. Perhaps it would be better for Auckland if Eden Park was demolished, and simply not replaced with another stadium. Because on the current evidence, the city already seems saturated with stadiums. If that wasn’t the case, wouldn’t they be able to pay for themselves?

Two pieces to highlight regarding the stories last week about tourism, and the relationship between the NZ and Chinese governments: The first is from the NZ Herald, and notes that tourism from China has been growing, and that there is a fear in the industry that a crisis could be conjured into existence by over-talking about it. Tourism Industry Aotearoa’s Chris Roberts says there’s no hard evidence of any sort of protest or boycott against NZ taking place – though in fairness, diplomatic signals aren’t necessarily given as hard statements.

The other piece concerns the National party’s attacks on the government, with the party making the argument that the government had jeopardised the relationship with China, and in doing so put the economy at risk. I want to make it very clear that this piece is the opinion of the author who wrote it, because it’s an extremely strong statement. Michael Reddell at Croaking Cassandra says National’s close links with Chinese government and business interests make them, in his words, “unfit to govern.” The case he lays out draws together a range of events over the last few years, including the Jian Yang affair, and statements made by MPs about internment camps operating in China.

A fruit store owner in Devonport is facing extremely hefty costs, after a Queensland fruit fly was discovered nearby, reports Radio NZ. There’s a contamination zone cordon in place, which means fruit cannot be taken outside the area. The store owner says she understands and supports the measures, but because she’s already having to dump stock, she’s hoping that some form of compensation can be provided.

Stories about property owners asking for sex rather than rent from tenants come out pretty much every year. But what makes this one from Stuff’s Amanda Saxton so exceptional is the deep level of research into who the people wanting these transactions are, and why they look for them. That in turn underlines why this can be such a risky thing to get involved in.

There’s a mystery around the whereabouts of what might be a crucial piece of evidence in the Pike River mine case. One News had a story on it last night, involving an interview with an expert who is trying to track the door from a fan control box, but who hasn’t had success. A more full written version can be found on Radio NZ, who outline fears from families that the item might have been deliberately lost.

A new report is being released this morning by activist group Action Station, on widespread online harassment and abuse in New Zealand. Writing on The Spinoff, Action Station’s Leroy Beckett argues that the government needs to address it, because the tech giants the content appears on have not.

The Queenstown region is eyeing up the possibility of setting up hydrogen production facilities, to be used as a transport fuel, reports the ODT. It comes off the back of a consultancy report, which was looking at ways the local economy could be diversified. Because a large proportion of the area’s electricity is produced from renewables, it would make hydrogen a very low-emissions fuel to use, particularly to power the many heavy vehicles like tourist buses in the area.

Here’s a fantastic article from Stuff about the work that goes into a long-form investigation. Journalist Florence Kerr at the Waikato Times has spent years now trying to get to the bottom of how money was being spent by Wintec, and whether it was all above board. As you might imagine, you can’t exactly just ask at the front desk about those sorts of matters. It’s also an example of why big newsrooms doing big investigations matter – they have the resources to carry something like this from the beginning to the end.

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Right now on The Spinoff: Lots to get through today, so I’m going to split it up into guest and staff writers – guests first, of course. National MP Chris Bishop writes that the government has become like the Fyre Festival – a comment that has proven controversial on social media. Roger Brooking writes about fake news in crash statistics, and how drink driving remains a more common killer than drugged driving. And Georgia Merton writes about composting, and how it can help in the fight against climate change.

Now, staff writers: Simon Day went along to Lauren Hill as a fan, and was so moved by it he had to put pen to paper. Jihee Junn writes about the Health Star Rating review, and how even under the new version people could still end up with junk information. And finally, congratulations to Art and Matilda, the Royal Couple of NZ reality TV, who are having a baby – Alex Casey has extremely helpfully suggested some names.

Here’s a wonderful piece from the Whanganui Chronicle’s Zaryd Wilson, as part of a series on lesser known towns in the paper’s patch. The town of Crofton was originally intended to be a temperance town in the 19th century – that really didn’t last long though. Somehow the town managed to survive the arrival of drink, and has waxed and waned ever since. But I think the article does a really good job of showing why people in Crofton feel loyalty to the place, rather than moving to the big smoke nearby – Marton. Here’s an excerpt, quoting from a woman who once owned the town’s general store.

It was the old Crofton store which she and her husband took over in 1960 but were forced to close six years later.

“It was a hard decision because it was good life and we enjoyed it.

“We would have liked to have kept going but then the supermarkets all came and the petrol – we used to sell petrol as well – was all dearer here than in town.

“We liked it we got on with people and all that but you can’t blame people if there’s a supermarket up town.”

I’m still buzzing from the Phoenix game in Auckland on Friday night, and writing on The Spinoff, I strongly urge anyone with a passing interest in this bandwagon to jump on. In my analysis, the good times can’t possibly last. The game also raised an interesting question – with a record crowd coming in, why did football teams always fail in Auckland?

Harbour Heather on the always interesting Sportsfreak blog suggested that it could be great for both the city and the club to effectively become the New Zealand Phoenix – taking many more games around the country, and trying to build up nationwide support. It’s not a bad suggestion at all, but the Wellingtonians who have kept the club alive through the worst of times might hate it. Anyway, I’m interested in your feedback on that question, or anything on the Phoenix really, I just want to talk football now –

Finally, congratulations to Ryan Fox on winning his first European Tour golf event. The NZ Herald reports that it could be a breakthrough moment for the 32 year old golfer, who has grafted away for many years to get to this point.

From our partners: Barbecuing is one of New Zealand’s national summer past-time, but what are the nuances in our barbecue culture? Brenda Talacek, Vector’s Group Manager for Gas Trading, lifts the lid.

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