14 Sep 2011

McCully confident Auckland fan zone will cope

11:55 am on 14 September 2011

Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully says the problems in Auckland during the Rugby World Cup opening night will not be repeated this weekend, now that the Government has taken control of the fan zone area.

Mr McCully announced on Tuesday that provisions of the Rugby World Cup Empowering Act will be used to extend the fan zone beyond its current limits, following problems caused by overcrowding on opening night.

Mr McCully told Morning Report it was clear the only way to get the necessary consents in place to prevent a repeat of the problems was to bring the special legislation into play and he is confident the fan zone will cope this weekend.

"We want people to come down town because we're going to be able to manage them and we are going to overcater for the anticipated need.

"After last Friday, it would be irresponsible not to."

Under the measures, the fan zone area at Queens Wharf will be enlarged to Quay Street in case the crowd overflows and Mr McCully has also asked for better access to nearby wharves.

He has said he also wants to ensure road closures on Quay Street are effective, and there are more buses.

Auckland's deputy mayor says the Government's use of emergency legislation to make changes for the Rugby World Cup events is not justified.

Penny Hulse told Morning Report that, without being too dismissive, changes including getting extra buses running and extending the fan zone have already been underway.

Ms Hulse says it has occurred to many people that it is only ten weeks away from an election, and there's a lot of blokey politics going on.

On Friday night, hip hop artist Che Fu takes to the waterfront stage, while on Saturday Australia play Ireland at Eden Park.

Government move 'a blow to mayor'

The head of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, Michael Barnett, says the Government's decision to take control of a larger area of the city's waterfront is the right one but a blow to Auckland mayor Len Brown.

"Its probably a tough pill to swallow, but the reality was ... we had something occur here in Auckland that made Auckland and New Zealand look as though it had fallen short," said Mr Barnett, who is also head of the waterfront's Cloud structure.

Mr Brown said he didn't think the buck was stopping with him, and that the Government and council have joint responsibility.

He said Tuesday's announcement came as a surprise, and could have been handled better through a joint announcement.

Mr McCully told Morning Report that he understood formal communication occurred on Monday between the Chief Government Officer, Neville Harris and Auckland Council's chief executive.

Meanwhile, Auckland councillor Cameron Brewer says he warned fellow councillors last week that Queens Wharf and surrounding waterfront areas would not be able to cope but they scoffed at his warnings.

Action too late, says Labour

Labour Party leader Phil Goff said the damage had already been done and the Government should have acted sooner.

"They had the powers all along, you can only ask the question, why didn't they ... use those powers before, in the event that was always going to draw the biggest number of people into town."

International Rugby Board chief executive Mike Miller says some people were "a bit surprised" at how many people wanted to be part of the opening night, and more and more are likely to want to get involved in the event as the tournament goes on.

The minister, Murray McCully said there will be some extra costs to carry out the new plan for the waterfront and to beef up public transport, and the Government expects to pick up some of that cost.