Archives for posts with tag: stadium

There is a Big Sports tour coming up in 2017, when the British and Irish Lions will come to New Zealand. They don’t do this very often – it’s usually once in every 12 years. Last time they came, in 2005, they played a test in Christchurch, and a tour match in Dunedin. This time, there is no test in the South Island at all, but two (2!) in Auckland. There has been much complaining from southern rugby fans about this, and the NZRU has responded that Christchurch doesn’t have the capacity to host a test in the current stadium. That’s clearly true. One of the main reasons that proponents for the $500m stadium have put forward is that if we don’t have said stadium, we won’t get this game, and that’s come to pass. Is $500m to guarantee one game every dozen years a worthwhile investment? I really doubt it.

But I feel for the people of Dunedin. They don’t have a hypothetical white elephant stadium; they have a bricks and mortar white elephant stadium. Still, they didn’t even get a test. They get a game against the Highlanders – but so do all the Super teams. So for all their ratepayers money, they’re no better off than Christchurch or Hamilton, which also get to see the Lions play against the Crusaders and Chiefs, respectively. This should have alarm bells ringing for the people of Christchurch though; the government still wants to spend $500m of ratepayer money on the boondoggle covered stadium, whilst forcing the council to sell assets to pay for it. In doing so, we’d get a big test each year, and we might get a test against the Lions. In 2029. This city simply can’t afford it. The idiocy of the stadium building arms race was covered comprehensively by John Oliver on Last Week Tonight, and I recommend you watch that.


Part Four: “Is this what you meant?”

If I was to sum up my critique of CERA in the shortest way possible it would with this one sentence: ‘Is that what you meant?’ This sentence is a critical part of any complex process. A person asks their opinion on something, they formulate that opinion into another form – a document, a design, a proposal, a sketch – and then go back to them and say ‘This is what I have done, is that what you meant?’ What normally then follows is a complex, intriguing, and difficult conversation where the questioner explains all the reasons that it is turning out this way, and the questionee reflects on what are the more or less important parts of the original answer. There is iteration, compromise and new ideas are formed.

This is precisely the process that has been missing in the redesign and rebuild of the central city. The people had a say during the “Share an Idea” process. For the government this is the end of it. They seem to have taken to heart the joke that ‘Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.’ (H. L Mencken). I don’t particularly believe that people, as a whole, know what they want, but I also don’t think the government or any of the shipped in advisors know either. However, it would be nice if we (and others like the representatives of those that can’t speak) were included in the conversation. That would be the first step.
Over the past three articles I’ve tried to articulate that not including the public is dumb politics that leads to dumb design, but I’d also suggest that it is dumb economics. The financial meltdown that rocked the world in 2007-08 hinged on a number of Wall Street firms developing stock options so complex that it was impossible for investors to have any understanding of what was in them. The heavy reliance on these options that turned out to be dodgy compositions of bad loans was what brought the banks down so quickly. This could not have happened if the market could see what they were investing in. It would seem that both democracy and the economy rely on transparency to function.

And if so, is the complete failure of the government to attract international investment into their rebuild project partly to blame on the opaque government structure that is developing the new city? We have stadiums, conventions centres, justice precincts, and many other government-led projects emerging with no publicly available business cases behind them. Should we be surprised that this isn’t creating investor confidence? If CERA won’t even release their organizational structure, how are we are supposed to trust them with rebuilding a city?

Over the holidays it struck me that Minister Brownlee’s unfortunate health problems have inadvertently removed the most effective metaphor to describe the performance of post-quake CERA; being an overweight, top-heavy and opaque bureaucracy that develops its own internal inertia which logic and common-sense can’t budge. I’ve repeated this idea enough times now, and figure its probably getting pretty boring. So to finish this short series of 4 posts I’m going to briefly comment on each of the so called anchor projects.

In our upcoming book (released October this year) we will have a much closer look at the logic that is guiding the focus on anchor projects (anchornomics) but for now I’d like to do a David Killick-inspired update of the good and bad of the projects as they are at the moment. Killick has a regular feature article in the Press called Design Matters which presents an extraordinary opportunity to communicate the depth and beauty of matters of design, yet Killick has developed a design-lite approach to writing that raises important issues in poetic lists without any sort of explanation or context. One friend said if you read it out loud it sounds like Ralph Wiggum from the Simpsons.

So here goes:

1. Avon River

I covered this in the last part of this series here. Great idea, poor process. Will probably come out ok, but well short of the extraordinary potential this project offered.

2. Hospital and health precinct

I don’t know the details of this, but there is significant funding in place and they have hired some of the most competent and experienced designers in Australasia for this project, so looking promising.

3. Justice Precinct

The building isn’t going to change the world, but the project is based on a really sound idea that emerged from the post quake experience – to keep ministries and departments close to each other. So this building will have emergency, courts, corrections and other departments all in one area. Reports are that it is going well and looks promising on both an urban and organizational levels.

4. The stadium

Too big and too expensive. Do we really need to spend another $50 – $100 million on a stadium just for a couple of Lions Tours? Crazy stuff. A small and well-designed stadium might work this close to the city if carefully arranged, but anything as big as proposed should stay where it is.

5. Convention Centre

This is the most dangerous project for the city. It occupies two large blocks in the heart of the city. I don’t know of any other city that thinks it’s a great idea to stick a monolithic project with an internal focus at the centre, its normally much smarter to put it on the edge so it can do its own thing, but close enough that the business of hotels and restaurants and cafes feeds into the heart. The original proposal that was given to the designers was for a convention centre 4 times the size of the previous one (this is apparently now being reconsidered.) The key with this project is to keep the edges alive so that no part of the city is destroyed by parking, entrances, storage and the sides of large internal spaces; it is hard to see how this can be done on four edges, so will inevitably kill at least one street in the city. This is a really big project and there has been no information released on it yet.

6. East and South Frames

Like the convention centre and the Avon this is big stuff. Do this badly and the whole inner city rebuild will be compromised, do it well and Christchurch could easily become the best city in the country. What was originally conceived of as a land bank and edge condition to the city, got sold to the public as a park, and it now being conceived as the only real opportunity to get twenty thousand people into the city. This is potentially game changing. We could see the design and construction of the first 21st century housing in NZ. Meaning proper density, sophisticated design, integrated transport and ecology, and at affordable prices. Instead it sounds like treasury is leaning on CERA to get some money back from the expensive land purchases, so are pushing for the land to be sold of to the highest bidder. This’ll inevitably be the groups that can make the most money out of the projects, and sadly this isn’t like to lead to the best outcomes. Government needs to lead these projects so it caters for a diversity of residents (this is what makes cities work) and to use the scale of the construction to develop new safer cheaper offsite manufacturing. So again, there is hope, but I can’t see why this government would see the light on this issue when they haven’t so far.

7. Innovation Precinct

This project is a joke. It was introduced by Minister Joyce at day 93 in the 100 day plan. It’s been under-developed and under-supported. It represents the worst of government interference. Leaving people to just get on with their own buildings would have been many times more effective. Who knows how this will develop from here, but the horse has already bolted. Key players may now be the centre of an exciting development elsewhere on the edge of the city.

8. Children’s Playground

Nice idea, but again caught up in the rubbish from the British designers. I can’t for the life of me work out why the playground can’t be constructed around the centennial pool and Elsie Locke Park instead of necessitating their demolition. I’d ask CERA and the CCDU, but that’s right, they don’t talk to the public.

9. Performing Arts Precinct

This one is a doozy that has been drawn into the controversy of the Town Hall. Now that it looks like the Town Hall is staying (thankfully) the rest of the arts precinct can start to be conceived. There is around $40 million and a large piece of prime central city land to do this. At the moment this will cater for CSO (who were going to get a new building pre-quake), School of Music (who are bringing in their own money) and Court theatre (who get another new theatre). I have followed this project closely and can’t for the life of me work out why there hasn’t been a proper consultation process to work out what goes in this area. What about youth spaces? What about community access? What about a BATS-sized theatre space? The Court Theatre is obviously important, but I can’t understand why they get some $20 million of rate payer money without a public conversation.

There is heaps of land here that the government is gifting to this project my two cents would be to encourage more groups to come in and make this a dense and amazing collaboration of spaces and groups. Other thoughts are that the James Hay should be substantially reconsidered so that it becomes a loved part of the city. There should be a small but beautiful bridge built from Victoria Square to the southern entrance of the Town Hall, and finally that the whole Arts Precinct should go on the site next to the river between Colombo and Manchester.

10. Metro Sports

I don’t really know much about this project. It’s another big one. Sounds like some of the master planning is quite exciting.

11. Library

This is an interesting one. The old library would apparently only take $8 million to fix and instead a new $90 million library is being built one block closer to the square. The idea of having a contemporary and great library on the square is a strong one. Or they could spend $30 million the old library to fix and it and built a new contemporary area. However CERA (as with the centennial pool) won’t let this happen because the old library is on the site of the new GIANT convention centre, so MUST be demolished. I’m in two minds about this as it would be amazing if a really good design is built right on the square. How about an international design competition?

12. Residential demonstration

Another good idea, great to see CCDU and CCC working so close together. This project illustrated the importance of public competitions with a fantastic array of entries from around the world. The 4 short listed entries were actually quite exciting. The project has however now become mired in economic issues as the government is allegedly trying to get ‘market’ value for the land and thus making the whole project unfeasible. I’m not sure how a ‘market’ value is reached in the middle of a city so dominated by a government landlord. This is supposed to be a demonstration project, be good if it was demonstrating amazing and affordable design rather than demonstration why we can’t ever build anything decent in this country.

13. Retail precinct

While the Re:Start mall has been a great success and illustrated the importance of quick and experimental thinking, the retail precinct has illustrated the opposite. A similar story to the innovation precinct but on a bigger scale. Nothing has happened here in the 18 months since the 100-day plans were launched. Dozens of designs have been proposed, millions will have been wasted of fees, lawyers, accountants, QS’s, and other professionals. The project does at least illustrate how we aren’t being victims to disaster capitalism, but rather the much more mundane reality of incompetence and bureaucratic obstinacy. Now, belatedly the government has thrown up its hands and done what they should have in the first place and said to the land owners ‘fine do what you want then but here is a master plan you need to fit within’. Apparently some pretty good architects have now being brought into the camp to do this master planning.

14. Te Puna Ahurea Cultural Precinct

This is a bit of a phantom project. Rumours are that it just isn’t going to happen. The piece of land that it was designated for was a bit strange in the plans, so I reckon it’d be better put someone more centre, either on the current site of the commons (where the pallet pavilion is) so it really feels like the entry to the city, and over the river from market square/Victoria Square, or next to the Avon where the new arts precinct was originally going to go, or if the old library was kept this building could be put on the square as a sister building to the cathedral. I’m not sure what it is supposed to be, but it feels to me that Ngai Tahu should be more present in the centre of Christchurch.

What this list clearly illustrates is repeated point about involving the public. All the projects that don’t have the public as the main user group have done well. The Health Precinct and the Justice and Emergency Precinct both have strong clients who can formulate their needs and work with the designers to achieve them.The River, the east and south frames, the arts precinct, Cathedral Square, the innovation precinct are all going awfully because the main user group has been ignored, or has had no proper representation.

Looking outside of the Anchor projects to what is actually happening in the city I predict another long, blur of a confusing year. There’s going to be some BIG political battles this year around the election and locally with the cost-sharing agreement. The city itself is going to suffer from a lack of intermediate initiatives. It’s looking like both the pallet pavilion and Re:Start will be gone by April* without anything in the pipeline to replace them. This should be the moment when projects such as the Arts Circus should be in full swing. People need to realize that the big projects are still years away. A few great things like the Isaac Theatre and parts of the Arts Centre will begin to come online, but really the big projects haven’t even finished master planning, lets alone proper design, let along construction and opening. We are in this for the long haul.

* editor’s note: Re:Start will be staying in a different configuration

A couple of odds and ends from the Press today. Firstly, Johnny Moore’s column, in response to his column last week asking why we’re so apathetic. There are a number of reasons for this, but one that struck me is that the sprawl of the city works quite well in countering the concentration of people that you need for a vibrant protest. This was a problem before the quakes, but in the few occasions where we could put a critical mass of people into a smallish area, that was often enough to start attracting more people. That said, 10’s of thousands of people poured into Hagley Park to see Christmas in the Park, so I guess it still happens if it’s the right cause.

Secondly, the cost-sharing agreement between the council and the government seems to be under a bit of strain. While on the one hand, it could result in the CCC being forced into selling off assets to pay for things (which I think would be bad) it could also lead to the council questioning some of the projects that the previous council prioritized, such as the stadium, convention centre and building a new library, rather than repairing the old one (which I think would be good.) It certainly seems like this issue is in a state of flux at the moment.

Speaking of stadiums, a critical look at the monument-building obsession of the NFL – and how the bill is foist upon those who can least afford it:

The most comprehensive study done on the economic implications of sports stadiums found that they do little to bolster local economies. In some cases, local economies actually shrank. In a 30-year study of 37 metropolitan areas with pro sports franchises, sports economists found that the real per capita income of city residents decreased on average after the construction of a new stadium.

In 2011, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Hamilton County, Ohio, was still devoting 16 percent of its annual budget to pay off the public financing of the Cincinnati Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium a full 10 years after it had been built.


Canterbury breezed into the provincial rugby final with a comprehensive win over Auckland on Saturday. I’m not about to turn this blog into a sports one, but it’s worth reporting because of the crowd – or the lack of one. In his report for the paper this morning (which isn’t yet online), veteran sports writer Tony Smith laments the size of the crowd, which was estimated at around 7,000. Most of the usual excuses for small crowds fall down here – it was a lovely day on Saturday, and the game was in the middle of the afternoon – so you can’t blame the cold. The tickets were as cheap as $6 – so you can’t blame the cost. Canterbury were playing their fiercest rival Auckland, who beat them earlier in the season, for a place in the final – so you can’t say the match wasn’t a good sell, at least on paper. And yet the stadium was well under half of it’s capacity of 17,000 people.

I’ve said it a number of times before, but it has to be said again. And again. And again. A $500 million covered stadium in the middle of town would be a folly of the highest order. The theory behind the stadium seems to be “if you build it, they will come”. But the sports administrators of this city need to be able to show that there is a demand for a bigger venue before they go cap in hand to the government and the council for a hand-out. That hasn’t happened. The stadium has already been pushed to the back of the queue of big-ticket rebuild items; I hope that the new council can quietly take this white elephant out behind the barn and put it to sleep in the most humane way possible.

Encouraging noises being made by Lianne Dalziel about the covered stadium project:

Dalziel said the stadium deal was a “white elephant” for the city and if elected mayor on October 12 one of her first calls would be to arrange a meeting with the Government to talk about new ways the stadium could progress with more outside investment.

Also interesting in this story was the idea put by council candidate Faimeh Burke that maybe, just maybe, some of the other Canterbury councils could contribute to a stadium:

It also appears money will not be coming from the two district councils that border Christchurch to the north and south. Both the Waimakariri and Selwyn district councils poured cold water on any suggestions their ratepayers should help pay for the stadium. The issue was raised by independent city council candidate Faimeh Burke who said other Canterbury councils should be contributing. “Why should it be just Christchurch ratepayers who pay the local public share? It will be a facility for the whole of Canterbury. The Wellington region built the Westpac Stadium, not just Wellington City ratepayers. That model should also apply here.”

Of course, people who live in these districts will expect to attend said stadium. Not that there are any stats on it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the people who choose to live in these post-suburban cultural wastelands were actually bigger consumers of rugby than the people who live in the CCC rating zone. Rolleston alone has tripled in size over the last seven years, and Selwyn district is the fasting growing region in the country. They have a rating base to match. But it’s the people who live here who will foot the bill for this thing that we didn’t ask for.

I don’t believe that a super-city model is right for Canterbury, but I do think we need to have a discussion about how Christchurch City interacts with it’s two neighbouring councils – who have benefited massively from the residential displacement caused by the quake, and whose citizens continue to use City Council facilities, and who work in City jobs – yet have council’s that refuse to contribute anything to the massive outlay on public facilities that the CCC is (being forced into) undertaking.

While the Press has been crusading against the Town Hall, it’s nice to see that there are other media outlets who are doing stories on things that the public are actually outraged about, such as the far-more expensive, far-more unnecessary stadium.

Reverend Mike Coleman, who advocates for quake-affected residents, says people are really angry about the new stadium. “They cannot see why we are trying to rebuild a stadium for the 2017 Lions tour when we’ve already got a stadium that we can’t even fill for the semi-final of a major rugby competition, and we’ve got a stadium we’ve been told can be repaired,” he says.

It will be interesting to see what new councillors, a new Mayor, and a new Labour leader have to say about the stadium. It seems like Gerry is the only person left standing who still thinks it is a good idea.

I have a blog about the Hagley Oval saga over at DailyBlog today. I end up on a tangent about strip clubs…

Asked who would fund the strip club, Brownlee shrugged his shoulders, before pointing in the direction of Mayor Bob Parker and saying “him, I guess”. Further pressed to provide an economic plan for the construction of the club, or modeling which would support the numbers of tourists claimed by the CCDU, a clearly tired Brownlee blurted out “look, there will be strippers, ok? Don’t you like strippers? Everyone likes strippers.”

Veteran sports writer Tony Smith has an opinion piece on a new stadium, and while you might expect him to cheerlead for a new edifice, he’s actually very balanced.

One-off warm fuzzy events are all well and good but anchor projects needs anchor tenants. The harsh reality is rugby will never fill a 35,000-seat arena outside an All Blacks test match, World Cup match or a Super rugby semifinal or final.

Smith suggests that we’d need another professional sports franchise based here – NRL, A League, or even better, both – to justify the cost of a covered stadium. I think he’s right. I am not totally opposed to the idea of a stadium, but as I’ve said time and time again, I want to see a plan for how it’s going to work. If it involves a new league or football franchise, then I could be it’s biggest fan – and more importantly, I’d vote with my wallet.

Until then, the idea that we need to get this done for the Lions tour in 2017 is ludicrous. The Lions supporters will come to the South Island either way, if there is a game in Dunedin, and a match against the Crusaders at the temporary stadium. I think that it would be far more important to show the mother country that 6 years after a massive earthquake, we can re-house our most needy, rebuild our roads and CBD. I don’t think they will begrudge us forgoing a stadium for the needs of the people.

So the fight over Hagley Oval is now being played out in the environment court. I’ve discussed the pros and cons, but mainly the cons, of this at length on the blog. I won’t stop, but I’ll try and add something different to debate. 

Another thing I have also argued against at length is the threat of council asset sales. There are many reasons against, but one of the strongest is why sell an asset that has a guaranteed return to pay for one that doesn’t even have a business plan? This same question can be asked of the Hagley Oval proposal. 

The difference being we (the people of Christchurch, as owners of Hagley Park) are being asked to GIVE part of this asset to Canterbury Cricket, so they can put up a stadium and charge entry. They are going to monetize an asset of all Christchurch people, for the benefit of the few. On top of that, they haven’t even provided a costed plan.

If I put it to council that I should be given the fourth floor of the Council Building, to run for my own commercial gain, preventing the rest of the staff from using it, I’d be laughed out of town, possibly locked up. So how is this idea even being entertained? Because it’s being done under the mask of SPORTS. Sports will make us happy. Sports will rebuild our resilience. Sports will bring in lots of money even though no-one can cite any evidence that suggests it’s true. Sports will tap into some basic, primal urge that somehow both makes us “uniquely New Zealand” whilst simultaneously hollows out our grass-roots sports organisations until they are completely modelled on the American franchise system.

Don’t get me wrong – I fucking love sports. I play football, I love the Warriors despite their inconsistent results, and I think cricket is the greatest sport of them all, test matches especially. But I am not so blind as to think that just because Richard Hadlee and Ian Botham could skittle a team at will, they are somehow qualified to make massive decisions on infrastructure. In the law-free zone of the Christchurch rebuild, there are heaps of decisions which reek of poor process. This one is the turd at the top of the pile.