Snedden: “can’t afford [for] anything to go wrong”

### ODT Online Tue, 6 Jul 2010
Rugby: Cup chief keeping close eye on progress at stadium
By Tracey Roxburgh
Rugby World Cup organisers were “keeping a really close” eye on Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium, RWC 2011 chief executive Martin Snedden said yesterday.
Read more

Post by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Construction, Economics, Project management, Sport, Stadiums

30 responses to “Snedden: “can’t afford [for] anything to go wrong”

  1. Russell Garbutt

    Whatever gave Snedden the idea that everyone was all behind it?

    We know the people he meets when in Dunedin, and we know the message that they are giving him.

    Pity that he doesn’t acknowledge the vast majority of ratepayers who don’t mind the ORFU building a new stadium for themselves, but simply don’t want a bar of providing one for them.

    Remind me again Martin how much money the NZRU or the ORFU have provided for your new rugby stadium? Oh yes, that’s right, not a cent.

  2. Peter

    ‘Whatever gave Snedden the idea that everyone was behind it?’
    Because Farry would have told him so. And we know about his assurances, don’t we.

  3. Kiwifly

    and because most of are for it, the only exceptions being the same half dozen on here, and on that other negative anti everything brigade site.

  4. Peter

    Kiwifly, you must mix in very limited circles. Constantly I come across strangers who say no-one they know supports the stadium. That makes more than ‘half a dozen’ on this site.

  5. Russell Garbutt

    Dear oh dear Kiwifly.

    It would be so good and a real change if you could back up some of your statements with some facts other than just your opinions.

    The only valid and sound survey of residents showed overwhelming opposition for a ratepayer-funded stadium. Your statement “most are for it” must be viewed as wishful thinking on your part at least.

    If you would deal in facts I think you would see that your position is rather shaky.

  6. Peter

    Yes, Kiwifly the survey showed 78.3% against the stadium. You may have forgotten but the DCC, ORC, CST, Our Stadium and the ODT were asked to make a joint financial contribution to the independent university run survey, but declined. STS signalled that they would like to have a collaborative approach. Declined.

  7. I didn’t want them to build it, but I’m not ‘against’ it now, that would be pointless. I really want it to succeed, because along with all the other ratepayers and taxpayers, I am paying for it! Is that what you mean perhaps Kiwifly? We are paying for it long after this council and mayor are finished in local politics.

    As for things going wrong, let’s hope we skeptics are all proven wrong, because it will be really amazing if they can get it built in time, and get grass to grow under a roof and a pitch to bed in, in a matter of weeks.

  8. Russell Garbutt


    Just a philosophical question.

    What if it was able to be conclusively shown that the finished stadium was not able to meet the projected incomes, or even close to the projected incomes, thus ensuring that it would be an on-going loss?

    I ask the question because, despite all the assurances that the construction costs and the running costs would be met by income from use, it appears that these will not meet anything like the shortfalls.

    What then? A business would make business decisions, and while this whole thing is not strictly a business and could be construed as a public good, the reality is that the community may not want to continue to throw good money after bad.

    The problem is that other major problems or other new initiatives which could provide a much greater community return, will not be able to happen because the City will be so overloaded with debt that we simply couldn’t do them.

    And don’t think for a moment that the City will not be overloaded with debt despite the continual creation of new entities by the DCC. The debt will still be there – just put in different boxes.

  9. anon

    And what if the wider economic return to the city for events at the stadium is significantly greater than an operating loss for the venue itself?

  10. Peter

    Anon. You mean with all those promised major All Black/International rugby games, rock concerts, celebrity visits, mass conventions/conferences etc that will absolutely fill the stadium week on end?

  11. anon

    Not necessarily week on end but the wider economic impact of events should be considered as part of the equation of the venue’s worth and by that I don’t mean some back of the envelope calculations on a blog or hearsay.

  12. Russell Garbutt


    If someone could supply everyone with accurate and realistic figures that showed the stadium could meet its operating costs, repay the construction debt and depreciation – and return a profit – then I would support it as a going entity.

    The difficulty is that the projections that were presented to support the idea in the first place have been shown by experts in the fields of entertainment to be nothing much other than spin and smoke and mirrors.

    Another small thing to consider is the measurements that are made to gauge economic input. Try googling the subject for a moment and you will rapidly find that no matter where you look the building of stadia is sold to communities on the basis of a “small” cost, and huge benefits. Invariably the costs blow out and the economic benefit is negligible.

    I have seen or read nothing to persuade me to suggest that Dunedin should be any different in this regard to all of the other local bodies or governments that have built stadia.

    What you also conveniently overlook is the loss of opportunity. It wouldn’t take too much thinking to come up with a dozen different ways to spend this enormous amount of money that would return a positive economic benefit to our community. This project is aimed at a very small group of people – largely engaged in a commercial enterprise.

    Last word. Blogs or sites like this serve a very useful purpose in putting forward ideas and for revealing facts that in the past would have remained hidden. By all means separate the wheat from the chaff – it’s your choice what is what.

  13. anon

    Which experts would those be? Names please.

  14. Russell Garbutt

    Anon – try looking at the published reactions to the stadium of the promoters who bring in the big shows to New Zealand – there was quite a spread in the media. I’m sure you will find their names, but I’m satisfied with what they had to say at the time.

    I note that you have nothing to say on the economic benefits or otherwise of stadia, so you might try starting here to see what others a lot more qualified than myself have to say on the matter. There are literally scores of such articles and most have been referenced on this site:

    Click to access coates.pdf

    Speaking of names – why not publish your name? It does tend to add a bit of veracity to discussions don’t you think?

  15. anon

    Concert promoter Phil Sprey made comments reported in D Scene sometime ago questioning Dunedin’s viability for large concerts; he subsequently changed his view when apparently engaged by the Stadium as reported by the ODT. Either way it is one man’s opinion and hardly expert proof one way or the other or some type of evidential demonstration of smoke and mirrors. It is not a hard and fast business case on venue promotion in the city or a wider analysis of the economic impact of events.

  16. Russell Garbutt

    But an analysis based on reality should form the basis of business projections.

    I think you were right about Phil Sprey – he was the man that didn’t think that there would be much of a market for shows here in Dunedin and then once he was employed by the Stadium people, he seemed to be less sure. Hmmm.

    Simply saying that there will be 4 major shows a year or whatever with a return of $x, shows nothing other than wishful thinking. The people in charge of the smoke machines just need to input whatever figure they like into the business model but it doesn’t make the figures real.

    Much the same sort of thing is happening with the conference market. Having a stand at a show that attracts “interest” is not the same thing as receiving advance bookings.

    It can also be extended to all the smoke and mirrors and hype regarding the Dalai Lama, the World Swimming Champs, Royal Tours, Speedway meetings and the like. I know that when all that stuff was being touted by the CST, none of those organisations had even heard of the Dunedin Stadium let alone had had any enquiries from them.

    I look forward to hearing from you after you read some of the economic benefits of stadia and whether you choose to “come out”.

  17. Peter

    People still don’t know that they are building a shell. Nearly two years ago, my wife, Bev Butler, met with Tim Calder (secretary, Our Stadium) where Tim admitted that Malcolm Farry had told him he was ‘delivering’ a stadium to the people of Dunedin and it was up to everyone to come up with ideas of what it could be used for – apart from rugby, of course.
    Gullible Tim seemed to be sucked in by all the hype….BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME!

  18. anon

    Russell: “Come out”? Sometimes it’s more fun to rummage around inside the closet!

  19. Russell Garbutt

    Anon – just too much information!!!!

    Good discussion is just fine as long as it is honest and based on facts – something in my experience which is lacking when dealing with those that should have those qualities in spades.

    Personally, I have no issues with people knowing who I am and what I stand for – I have no political aspirations at all, but do believe very very strongly that the City, which has a glorious past, has been appallingly let down by the current governance people. Frankly, their decisions have been reprehensible and border on the culpable.

    That view, I suggest, is borne out by the facts.

  20. anon

    It’s a legitimate view but open to interpretation — I suggest that’s one reason a variety of people post here.

  21. Russell Garbutt

    And interesting that Kate Wilson and Richard Walls seem to be the only Councillors that do you think the rest interact with the community?

  22. anon

    Fliss Butcher is on twitter.

  23. Russell Garbutt

    And how do you think that people like Acklin, Collins, Hudson, Bezett, Weatherall, Guest and co communicate? Twitter is limited to 150 characters I think – really a good way to deal with complex issues…

  24. anon

    It would be interesting to know the number of discrete viewers for this blog — 100s, 1000s. ‘DCC has lost the plot’ on facebook might claim 3300 odd members but how many are actively engaged? Like the ODT online, and to some degree here, it seems the same players largely.

    {What if? gets stats on daily total views, daily views per thread – also, re Comments: daily numbers of subscribers, subscriptions and active bloggers. Plus, WordPress tells us our busiest day (ever), and our total views since going live. But wait, it’s “commercially sensitve”. -Eds}

  25. anon

    Which raises the point, is blogging, social media an effective way of councillors engaging with potential voters or do the majority of voters never even consider finding a site like this one.

  26. Russell Garbutt

    I would suggest to you that the new technology is probably one of the most effective ways of increasing the channels of communication between the elected and the electors.

    To counter your question, what community dialogue have you seen, heard, or read between groups of electors and the current crowd of Councillors? There simply isn’t any apart from a couple. The feeling I get is that once a person gets elected then they simply disappear.

    Many don’t want such dialogue as it opens them up to scrutiny or examination, but for goodness sake, wouldn’t it be nice if the community was able to be told what they had been doing on our behalf?

    There is another factor – I suspect that many of the current Councillors can’t handle the technology – emails are just that little bit too far for some.

    For many in the community, this type of dialogue that we are engaging in, is also unknown and so for many, they are un-informed. Main stream print media seems to have little or no urge to do any investigative stuff, and radio seems – apart from bits of National radio – to be totally incapable.

    Word of mouth extends from these threads as well but who knows what that effect has?

  27. Peter

    Personally, I think that just picking up the phone and talking to someone, or meeting them face to face, is a better and more efficient way to communicate. (I acknowledge this is sometimes difficult!) Blog sites such as this are good for putting thoughts/arguments down in writing so they don’t get lost. This method can clarify things in a different way as we have time to re-read what someone has said and ponder.
    However, whether effective communication actually takes place – whatever the method – depends on the people involved and their level of openness. Richard is a case in point. On one level, he can be very good when he is providing reliable information. He can point people in the right direction for obtaining information because he has been in local government a long time. In other ways he is infuriating because he obfuscates with trickier information that doesn’t suit his argument. I suspect he enjoys the game in doing this – and we enjoy catching him out – at which point he disappears for a while before the temptation of the game draws him back.
    To be honest, if I was a councillor, I wouldn’t want to be drawn into this method of communicating with the voters. I’d prefer a more efficient way of engaging with them to get a feel for their views on things. I’d take heed of reliable polls and surveys for a start – something this council has refused to do at the cost of their own popularity. I’d probably prefer to watch! I would want my own life too!

  28. Anonymous


    This values Queenstown airport at around $120 million. The airport accounts for some 800,000+ passenger movements annually, a vital part of the regional economy.

    The stadium will cost Dunedin around $350 million all up when complete. Will an average of 6500+ people per day go through its doors and spend money? At the open day, 7500 did and donated $10K. $10K every day for a year is $3.5 million.

    In pure economic engine terms, the stadium is nowhere near as good as an airport.

  29. Russell,

    Well, philosophically, if you can prove those things, which economically-minded people can and will do, I think it’s wrong. I think it’s very hard to justify any significant cases of increasing public debt for private profit. But that is what we are seeing in the wake of major sports events, wars, the financial crisis, etc.

    I don’t have any doubt that you will be right about an ongoing financial loss (in terms of the council and ratepaters). That seems to be almost a given, in the cases of the olympics, football world cups etc. I guess the next kind of rhetorical question is, do the guys making the decisions realise these completely obvious things, and if so, do they just suspend common sense to support the momentum of a commercial venture, or are they not troubled by the crazy public-private paradox and resulting serious debt?

    But of course I still want it to somehow work! (financially, not just as a place which can host futuristic laser shows …)

  30. Russell Garbutt

    Alex, I don’t think it takes too much of an economic-minded person to figure out whether building the stadium was a good idea or not.

    I firmly believe that I’m right regarding the future financial losses of the stadium. One of the past CEO’s of the CST quoted figures of 3 “medium” concerts per year and 1 “major” concert and the thoughts at that time were 15% of the gate takings. Add to that the small number of daily hires by the ORFU, and what have you got?

    Future decisions on what to do with the stadium will, I’m sure, determine whether this City can afford to spend the necessary money on the really important parts of our infrastructure and projects that are designed to benefit the whole community and not just the vocal “good old boys”.

    However, I do believe that the crucial people who were behind these decisions to proceed knew what they were doing and as such should be culpable one way or another. There are others who simply aren’t equipped to deal with thinking at a strategic or governance level. The fact that they are in those positions is our fault and we must be sure that they are removed come October.

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