Redevelopment work at Yarrow Stadium, which was damaged by a 2016 earthquake in New Zealand, could start before the end of this year after the national government pledged NZ$20m (£10.2m/€11.3m/$13m) towards restoring the venue to “full operational use”.

A proposed NZ$50m revamp of the facility – which is owned by the Taranaki Stadium Trust, a Taranaki Regional Council-controlled body, but is operated by the New Plymouth District Council – was given the go-ahead just over a year ago. In January of this year, it emerged that a process had been launched to select contractors to work on the project.

The stadium, primarily used as a venue for rugby matches, continues to operate at a reduced capacity. The facility suffered extensive damage resulting from the Kaikōura earthquake in November 2016 and both of its main stands have been out of action for more than two years after they were deemed an earthquake risk.

The funding from central government will help to restore the two main stands and also reconfigure and modernise the main stand, supporting “future multi-use” whilst improving “operational integration” and encouraging increased community access and use.

New LED lighting will be installed, as well as a new pitch, while there will also be an “upgrade of auxiliary services to improve customer experience including lighting, technology, access and car parking”.

It had originally been hoped that construction work could begin in the middle months of this year. However, although Covid-19 has delayed progress, New Zealand’s emergence relatively unscathed from the first wave of the pandemic could allow work to begin in earnest before the close of 2020.

“We’re extremely grateful for this ‘shovel-ready’ funding from the government,” Taranaki Regional Council chairman David MacLeod told Radio New Zealand. “It will reduce Yarrow Stadium rates by a considerable amount, and we’re aiming for work to begin before the end of the year.”

The funding package was announced on a visit to the region by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said: “The government’s NZ$20m investment, with co-funding from the regional council, will bring the stadium back to full operational use, creating 150 jobs.

“Projects like sports facilities, pools and libraries unite communities and supporting them is a win-win for regional economies and social wellbeing, as we reap the rewards of going hard and early in response to Covid-19 to get our regions and economy back open again.”

Image: Taranaki Regional Council