Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark is among those who will oppose Eden Park’s bid to stage regular concerts at a charged planning hearing that begins on Monday.

The 60,000-capacity stadium, considered the home of New Zealand’s All Blacks, wants the right to stage up to six concerts a year as a means of raising extra revenue. While it is currently able to stage concerts, officials at the Auckland stadium must make costly and time-consuming individual applications on each occasion.

The Eden Park Trust Board’s application, which was submitted last December, is being considered by independent hearings commissioners.

With the hearing to begin on Monday, the plan has been backed by Auckland Council, which said the proposals are in step with the city’s economic strategy.

Hayden Williams, the council’s principal planner, has recommended noise level restrictions, monitoring, limited hours for setting up and dismantling stages, and improved community liaison as conditions of approval.

“There are notable positive effects particularly at a regional scale, in terms of social, economic and cultural wellbeing, which must be balanced against identified adverse effects,” Wadams wrote in a report on the plan.

“The proposal is generally consistent with the AUP (Auckland Unitary Plan) objectives and policies relating to the use of major recreation facilities.”

The overwhelming majority of the 3,100 submissions that have been made ahead of the hearing are in favour of the plan, with 2,966 in favour and just 180 against. However, former PM Clark, who has lived near the stadium since the 1980s, is among the local residents to have expressed their opposition.

Clark, the 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1999 to 2008, has been given a 30-minute slot to present her case next Wednesday.

The Eden Park Neighbours’ Association said in its submission that the six concerts of up to 60,000 people at a time would not only be bigger than the once-or-twice-a-year All Black tests, but would also bring up to 10 days of truck convoys and 24-hour ‘unpacking’ of containers of stages and equipment.

In making the application last year, the Trust Board said the staging of music events is a vital part of securing the stadium’s future after Auckland Council in March 2019 approved a NZ$63m bailout for the venue consisting of NZ$53.5m of loans to address the stadium’s debt, and a NZ$9.8m grant for essential maintenance work.

The Trust claims that an application for a single concert currently costs NZ$100,000 (£49,319/€57,166/$63,489) and can take up to 18 months to realise. In 2018 music legend Phil Collins was secured to headline a charity concert. Due to time constraints and the prospect of substantial Environment Court costs to consent an individual event, however, the application was withdrawn.

“We have to get our concerts to get more financially independent, to be able to afford over and above what the council is giving us support for,” Trust chairman Doug McKay said last year. “There’s a lot to do at the Park, and we need a new source of revenue.”

Image: TimBray /  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license / Edited for size