Redevelopment plan approved for earthquake-hit Yarrow Stadium

Taranaki Regional Council has today (Tuesday) approved a NZ$50m (£25.6m/€29.2m/$32.5m) redevelopment plan for Yarrow Stadium, cutting NZ$5m from the initially expected cost of transforming the earthquake-damaged venue.

A NZ$55m repair plan had been recommended for Yarrow Stadium in the city of New Plymouth, New Zealand, in February. The venue suffered damage from the Kaikōura earthquake back in November 2016 and its two main stands have been out of action since last June after they were deemed an earthquake risk.

Eight options for the council-owned stadium had been on the table, ranging from a basic NZ$6m upgrade through to a project including demolition of the stands and construction of a new covered stadium that would have cost NZ$271m.

The stadium is primarily used to host rugby matches. After it was deemed an earthquake risk last year, the capacity of the once 25,000-seat venue has been drastically reduced and yesterday’s council meeting opted to endorse Option 2, albeit on revised terms.

The stadium project is now proceeding on a budget of up to NZ$50m, with outer field updates on hold pending further discussions with the wider sporting community. The NZ$50m price tag covers repairs to the earthquake-prone grandstand and consequential changes, and important updates including additional food and beverage outlets and toilets, technology upgrades and LED pitch lighting.

Council Chair, David MacLeod, said: “Clearly, we must reinstate what we had, with updates that are necessary to meet current and foreseeable requirements for such venues. Weighing up all of the submissions, we’re confident that the community largely shares this view.

“We need to be clear that this is a repair and refurbishment project. We’re working with the stadium we already have. If we were building a new one, a different approach might have been possible. It’s also misleading and misrepresents the situation to say we need to spend only NZ$33m or NZ$36m to fix the grandstands, and can do without the refurbishments. It’s a false option.

“Just fixing the grandstands would not result in a fit-for-purpose, usable stadium. The refurbishments are included because they are essential – replacing end-of-life lighting with up-to-date LED fittings is but one leading example. Doing without them is out of the question.”

MacLeod said the council will continue to seek further outside funding assistance for the repair project, and the option of a bigger main stand extension remains on the table in case external funding becomes available.

“This has been a hugely difficult issue for Taranaki to face,” MacLeod added. “It’s been a tough decision. We’ve listened very carefully to the community’s views, and discussed the issues at length. Now it’s time to get cracking, fix Yarrow Stadium and take Taranaki forward.”

The decision has been met with a mixed response from local sporting bodies. Taranaki Rugby Football Union chief executive Jeremy Parkinson hailed the agreement, but warned the body would remain in “survival mode” until the stadium was fully operational.

“It’s good news for Taranaki rugby, and it’s good news for the whole region,” he said, according to the Stuff.co.nz website. “We will now have a regional facility which will be able to host all sorts of fixtures for the province. The union can see the light at the end of the tunnel that we will be back at Yarrow Stadium in our previous capacity.”

However, Sport Taranaki chairman Gordon Brown said the decision was a “tragedy” for smaller sporting codes in the region. “There was a major concern other sports were sidelined during the submission process, and this decision reinforced that concern,” he added. “It’s a tragedy we don’t have a community sports facility for any sportsman or woman who is not an elite rugby player.”

Image: Taranaki Regional Council