24 Apr 2009

Group loses bid to stop Dunedin stadium

10:00 pm on 24 April 2009

Dunedin's multimillion-dollar stadium has been given the go-ahead after a judge dismissed a last-minute challenge to the project.

On Monday, Dunedin city councillors voted to approve the contract to build the $198 million stadium.

But lobby group Stop the Stadium sought an injunction, saying the project had changed significantly from earlier plans, including a $10 million cost increase.

The group's lawyer argued that proceeding with the stadium before public consultation on the city's long-term council community plan is completed next month would be unlawful.

But in a decision released on Friday at the High Court in Christchurch, Justice Chisholm said Stop the Stadium had failed to show how going ahead with the project would significantly affect the cost to the council.

The judge ruled the increased cost will be offset by $15 million in new funding from the Government.

Justice Chisholm said that, although the financial aspects were extremely complex, the group had failed to make its case. He dismissed its application for an injunction.

Stop the Stadium spokesperson Bev Butler says the group is disappointed with the ruling, but are determined to fight on.

Ms Butler says there is still plenty of support and the group is not worried about the possibility of having to pay legal costs for the injunction hearing.

However, chief executive of the Highlanders team and Otago Rugby, Richard Reid, says it is time for the group to stop and allow the stadium to go ahead.

"The council have articulated the cost to ratepayers - they (Stop the Stadium) choose not to believe it. At some stage, people have got to cry enough and let democracy take its course... I think we should just simply get on with it now."

Dunedin mayor Peter Chin says the judge's ruling on Friday removes the last obstacle to the stadium and will enable the community to support the project.

Mr Chin says the project is still on track for completion before the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

The contract to build the stadium will be signed on Monday.