Submission on Te Kaha multi-use arena budget consultation

I recently submitted to Council on the multi-use arena budget consultation.

I’m a member of the Waipapa/Papanui-Innes Community Board (and am standing for re-election this year) but made this submission on my own behalf. The Community Board has no role in decision-making on the area.

In the interests of transparency my submission follows:

Image credit: Christchurch City Council

Q: Should the Council: invest an additional up to $150 million to enable the project to continue as planned; stop the project altogether; or pause and re-evaluate the project?
A: Pause and re-evaluate the project

Q: What would you like to see us re-evaluate?
A: The scope, the funding model, the operating model, the business case, the climate impact.

Q: Do you have any further comments regarding the funding of Te Kaha – Multi-Use Arena?
A: General comment:
I am not against arenas. What I am against is spending more than what is needed on them. Just because the Government has given us money towards the cost of an arena, we shouldn’t waste money on an over-the-top design. After all, we as taxpayers are contributing to the Government’s portion of this project, as well as our ratepayer portion. As inflation bites on these projects, we have to be more frugal to make our hard-earned money go further. $500,000 a week for the next thirty years to finance the build? And then it’ll run at a loss of millions of dollars a year? And despite our climate & ecological emergency there’s been no consideration in the budget or business case of the climate impact of building and operating the venue?

Specific comments:

  1. The economic case doesn’t stack up. A Benefit Cost Ratio significantly less than 1 (‘two blowouts ago’), and an ongoing operational loss to the Council make no sense. I note that the $683 million cost currently being debated/consulted isn’t a fixed final figure (from the Have Your Say page: “We have asked our lead contractor for a fixed price and to bring the price down”). From my experience fixing and reducing prices are mutually exclusive, unless combined with a significant reduction in scope. The total cost is likely to go up as the Council seeks to contract out of risk and secure a fixed price
  2. The event market is changing – our future is not post Covid but rather endemic Covid. Public health measures are likely to be needed long term. Will big crowds turn out for events in the numbers that the business case assumes?
  3. The environmental impact of the arena appears to have been ignored – both the embodied CO2 associated with the structure, and also the climate impact of events. I understand there is no allowance in the budget or business case for even paying lip service to the climate by offsetting emissions. What does the Council’s declaration of a climate and ecological emergency count for?
  4. In the coming decades the city will be exposed to substantial risks, including the changing climate and also potential major earthquakes such as from the alpine fault – it is irresponsible for the Council to do so with such little debt headroom.
  5. A proposal: if this project is so important to the Chamber of Commerce, let the Chamber with the support of their members fund the blowout, and commit to leasing and operating the arena at no net cost to the ratepayers. Let’s see the best and brightest from our business community put their money on the line if the arena “must be built”, as their media release states.
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