Christchurch City Council has voted to restore the seating capacity of the planned Canterbury Multi-Use Arena (CMUA) to 30,000 after its decision to approve a concept for a smaller design was criticised by locals.

The design concept approved today (Thursday) will mean that the venue is capable of hosting up to 41,000 people for concerts.

The stadium had initially been due to have a capacity of 30,000, with 25,000 permanent seats and space for 5,000 temporary seats. The council last month approved a new design direction that included 25,000 seats but removed the possibility of temporary seating.

The council said the capacity of the stadium had been reduced in an effort to minimise cost increases for the project. The decision was criticised, with more than 24,000 people signing a petition calling on the council to overturn the move and Councillors Sam MacDonald and James Gough putting forward an amendment to retain the original 30,000-seat goal and target additional funding from neighbouring councils.

The council has now announced that it will revert to the initial capacity and confirmed that the decision to restore the extra 5,000 seats will add about NZ$50m (£25.3m/€29.8m/$35m) to the previously approved budget of NZ$473m.

The council said that it would look to limit the impact of the cost increase on Christchurch and Banks Peninsula ratepayers by pursuing “other funding strategies and commercial opportunities”.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said: “From the outset we have been determined to build a great arena for our region. It is time to put the debate over the capacity of the arena to rest and get on with the job of building it.

“The post-COVID environment is causing challenges for all construction projects, with rising freight and material costs resulting in price escalations. It will be April or May next year before we have certainty on the arena costs.

“We have a high-calibre team of local and international experts led by Australian-based stadium BESIX Watpac and the Kōtui consortium working on this project. I have complete confidence they will deliver us an arena of which we will all be proud.

“They will go away now and work on the preliminary design plans for the arena. We hope to be able to share these with people by the end of the year.”

As previously agreed, the arena will be designed with a level 1 concourse and a stage at the northern end, which the council said would reduce the risk of turf damage from concerts and festivals.

The stadium is set to host All Blacks rugby matches as well as concerts and other events.

Image: Christchurch City Council