It’s Friday with mondayitis upon us, a flatness on the way to unleavened dread. Will Council come right and true, realising the past months, years, of stadium investigation and planning have been a complete unnecessary evil in the life and times of many many residents and ratepayers – amongst them, not a few rugby stalwarts keen to see Carisbrook’s continuance as the national icon.
The Council’s white paper for Monday 9 February (see link below), with its summary, options, recommendations and reports, is an eye opener on the Carisbrook Stadium Trust’s (what’s in a name) laboured conscientious efforts to wring blood out of stone.
It’s not been easy for CST to swing the public on Dunedin City Council’s vision if it means endless dollars squandered – not for the vision – but the wildest bad dream to hit this small magnificent city and the allied provinces. The word endless is used advisedly.
Not surprisingly – apart from Chief Executive Jim Harland’s savvy “two options from here” – the white paper has a lightness of being, it flags up no particular brief to comment in depth on the people’s support or non support. Bearing this in mind, Councillors’ decision on Monday will not be based on full information, rather, a sandwich of hard sought and selective information ready and available on that date – with a quotient kept from public view by reason of commercial sensitivity.
The fudging starts… in the Chief Executive’s report, by table, community support under ‘Operational funding’ is factored as low risk: read unquantified colloquial thinking such like “build it and they will come”.
Further in, the Stakeholders Group Report (Attachment 2 to Chief Executive’s report) lists the entities that have provided letters of endorsement for the stadium – being letters of support in principle, threaded with indications more has to be known about the potential costs of using the facility. Scale of use, if any, is a question for all entities and their bottom line. The letters (Attachment 14 to Stakeholder Group Report) are no more than you would expect, mostly written in mid to late January 2009. Too early for money to change hands.
Project Benefits are outlined in Attachment 3 to the Chief Executive’s Report. The loosest description of impacts and outcomes, and comparisons of development options for (1a) A new roofed multipurpose stadium at Awatea Street, (1b) A new un-roofed multipurpose stadium at Awatea Street, and (2b) New South stand at Carisbrook, are set out. Accompanied by a wispish attempt to state Community Outcomes in terms of social/cultural, environmental and economic well-being, with no supporting evidence or substantiation of claims to pin this down. Hoop-la. With a qualification (page 2.169):
“Note that the wealthy community outcome has, in this case, been assessed in terms of meeting the Dunedin City Council’s vision rather than a quantitive financial assessment. It is possible that community decision-makers may wish to weigh the outcomes of their decision making…The challenge in any comparison comes in comparing these social and cultural benefits with the direct economic benefits and costs.”
This challenge is tackled in section 1.6; there follows the summary for Project Benefits:
“It will be a unique, exceptional stadium. It will have regional benefits and will project strong, positive images of Dunedin and Otago to New Zealand and international audiences. We therefore seek the Trust’s support and commitment to bring this ambitious project to fruition.”
Safe? Light and dangerous.
As Horwath HTL comments, “Our report and work have been undertaken on the basis of a limited scope. This is particularly the case with our adopted capital raising assumptions which, although prepared with due care, have a high degree of uncertainty.” (Horwath report, ‘Update of Financial Feasibility Projections: Summary Report’, in white paper, page 2.104).
Horwath identifies (section 1.5 of its report) six key risks that could impact on the achievability of its revised operating projections. They are lengthy and I won’t list them here; nevertheless the peer review of the ‘Proposed New Otago Stadium Forecasts’ by PricewaterhouseCoopers concurs with Horwath’s assessment and notes amongst other things there is a major risk if government funding (a $15m underwrite) is not secured, and $16.3m of borrowings will be the obligation of the Dunedin City Council, either directly or indirectly. PwC recommends that because commencement of construction is a major commitment “a contingency plan needs to be developed to deal with a funding shortfall” (white paper, page 2.127). You mean they haven’t got one?
In terms of venue operations, PwC says, “the challenge then becomes delivery of an events programme that will induce patrons to renew their commitment to the Stadium on expiry of their existing licences and rights” (white paper, page 2.127). The Stakeholders Group has not tabled a likely multipurpose events programme for the stadium. The weight of reporting continues with the main focus on rugby, despite all. PwC again: “given the uncertainty at this time about the future structure of the [rugby] competitions, it is not certain how the changes might translate into the number and quality of games played in Dunedin” (white paper, page 2.130).
Read the agenda and reports for Monday’s Council meeting (the white paper) at:
There’s much more to pick around, to analyse, to be intuitive or serious about. Ahead, a weekend of mondayitis, flaring to the hypertensive at the Council meeting if Councillors rise, or cannot rise, to accept either of the two options given by Chief Executive Jim Harland – these in the face of everything offer one cogent and reasonable decision.
Option 1 – Stop the project now – expenses to 31 December 2008 of $13.84m, and any expenses incurred up to the date of stopping the project to be amortised over five years.
Option 2 – Delay a final decision until a response from the Government is received.
Author: Elizabeth Kerr