TIM BARNETT (Labour—Christchurch Central)
: I move,
That the Christchurch City Council (Lancaster Park) Land Vesting Bill be now read a first time. At the appropriate time I intend to move that the bill be considered by the Local Government and Environment Committee. It is with great pride as the member of Parliament for Christchurch Central, as a Cantabrian by adoption, and as a native of the iconic English Midlands town of Rugby that I rise to urge this House to support this proposed law. It will bring ageing and redundant legal structures into the 21st century and free significant impediments to further development of a very special place.
This bill is about a stadium known by many names—initially as the new ground down Ferry Road, then Victory Park, Lancaster Park, Jade Stadium, and now AMI Stadium. It is not just any old sporting venue. It is not a modestly impressive, oversized facility in a provincial town, nor a brash modern architectural statement, or even a place with unrealised potential, hemmed in by high-density residential housing. It is Australasia’s most famous sporting venue. Why do I claim that? I claim it because it has a gripping history that reflects its city and region, because it has hosted a multiplicity of sports, because its backdrop of the Port Hills gives it extraordinary character, because the quality of the rugby played regularly on its verdant green is the best in New Zealand, and because it is loved by the people of our city—the second-largest in the nation—with a depth of devotion unique to the people of our nation’s leading province, Canterbury.
In seeking to reform this extraordinary institution, its guardians have moved with care and determination. The stadium is now managed by Vbase, a fully owned council company, which has an excellent local reputation and is led by Bryan Pearson, who has been generous in keeping me in the loop as this bill has been prepared; he is an exemplary public servant.
I note that a common concern with local bills is the lack of adequate engagement with tangata whenua in the process of preparing the legislation, and that under the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has the right of first refusal to purchase the land in schedule 1 of this legislation. They have agreed, in the interests of the Christchurch community, to consent to the promotion of this bill and the deferral of its rights under the 1998 Act.
The reasons for this new law live in the history of the stadium, and understanding that history has been made much easier for me by Don Neely and Joseph Romanos. I thank them for their superb work in preparing the 2006 publication
Lancaster Park, which was presented to each of the local Canterbury members of Parliament. The
passion, idiosyncrasy, community-mindedness, stubbornness, and outstanding sporting skills of Cantabrians shout out from each page.
This bill takes the stadium into its seventh age. Its first age started in 1880 when the land, then a cluster of swampy paddocks, was identified, and the proposal to establish a multisport venue there was raised at the Canterbury Cricket Association’s annual meeting in Warners Hotel on Cathedral Square. The Canterbury Cricket and Athletics Sports Co. Ltd was formed, shares were sold, 10 acres of the Lancaster estate were acquired, and a fence was put up so that admission could be charged. By March 1882 there was a high-quality levelled grass area, a cinder running track, and a pavilion costing £1,500 That same year 5,500 people came along to see an all-professional visiting English cricket side overwhelm the locals. In 1888, 10,000 people—one in three of the South Island’s population at the time—came to see a visiting British rugby team do much the same thing. This all happened years before the modern Olympics began, and only a generation after the first mass European arrivals in the province.
The park’s second age began around 1900. By then it had hosted American Wild West shows, athletics, ballooning, band contests, Caledonian sports meets, cricket, cycling—including a unique bicycle band, high-machine races on penny farthings, and the world’s first women’s cycling club—firework displays, lawn tennis, religious sports days, school sports, tradesmen’s sports, trotting, and rugby union, including the first All Black match in New Zealand in 1894. By 1903 the park was recognised as New Zealand’s finest sporting ground. But money was shaky, ownership was unstable, and development was overreaching the fund-raising potential. Hockey, swimming, and motorcar racing were added to the range of activities. Competition between the major codes became intense—and that has been a recurrent theme of the stadium’s history right up to the present day—and the city council became involved in stabilising and improving the facility and its management.
World War I saw a deepening financial crisis, and in 1916 the ground was ploughed up for potato growing. The third age of the park began after World War I. It was saved by the extraordinarily titled Lancaster Park Mortgage Extinction Fund Art Union, which ran a series of fund-raising raffles that made the park debt free for the first time in its existence. In 1919 the park was vested in the Crown through the Victory Park Act so that the Government could hold the land in trust for recreational purposes, and we are now addressing that legislation.
Facilities were rationalised when the park was reopened by the Minister of Internal Affairs, Sir Francis Bell. In his words, it was “a ground dedicated to sport and fit for any sport in the world”. Rugby league made a cautious entry to the scene, although its professional status caused dramas for decades to come. Canterbury became—and, of course, remains—a feared rugby union side, regularly beating international visiting sides. In fact, Canterbury at that ground was the first New Zealand side, including the All Blacks, to beat the Springboks. The famous Victory Memorial Gates in the ground were completed in 1926, their tablet inscription reading “Erected to commemorate the efforts of the Commercial Travellers and Warehousemen’s Association in the preservation of the park for rugby football, cricket and amateur sport as a memorial to the athletes who fell in the Great War 1914-18”.
Also in 1926, 22,000 people—one in three of the city’s population—attended the first Ranfurly Shield game there. In 1930 the first-ever New Zealand cricket test match was held, against England, and over 35,000 people, which was the largest crowd in the first half-century of the stadium’s life, attended a rugby test against the British Isles. This was an era when sport came to the fore because the stadium management was performing so well.
The fourth age of the stadium began in 1940 with an inevitable wartime decline. Indeed, the army took over the whole complex between 1942 and 1945, with 900 trainees and officers living there. The American influence was evident postwar. Softball and baseball, as well as netball, made an appearance. In 1956, 4,000 people watched 3,500 compete in the national marching championships. American evangelical preachers appeared at the stadium. In 1959 Billy Graham attracted over 100,000 people over two nights.
The fifth age of the stadium began around 1961. It was an era when the world’s spotlight was truly on the place. Peter Snell set the world 800 metres record there in 1962 and, although it was not the Commonwealth Games’ main stadium, much activity happened there. The sixth age started in the early 1980s. Usage diversified, politics came to the fore with the Springbok Tour—something that Madam Assistant Speaker is well aware of—with the test on 22 August 1981 generating scenes that are still part of local activist legend. The 1980s also saw the rise of the mega - pop concerts, including one by Dire Straits in 1986, which attracted the largest-ever crowd at the stadium—64,000—and led to complaints from the SPCA that seagulls were choking on used condoms discarded on the ground. Rugby and cricket became internationalised, and expectations of stadia standards rose rapidly. Economic impact also became a factor. The impact of stadium events is now computed at about $20 million a year for the city.
The seventh age comes with this bill. It winds up the Victory Park Board and transfers its assets to the Christchurch City Council. A decade of facility improvement—certainly not creating a Cake Tin but, rather, a proud and tall statement—is cemented with this transfer, and the stadium is now ready for the future, maybe for the opening ceremony for the Rugby World Cup or maybe for the opening ceremony for the southern hemisphere’s first Winter Olympics. Thank you, Madam Assistant Speaker.
NICKY WAGNER (National)
: It is with great pleasure that I also rise to support the Christchurch City Council (Lancaster Park) Land Vesting Bill. Lancaster Park is near to my home in Christchurch Central and near to my heart. It has a distinguished history, as Tim Barnett has been telling us. Like all one-eyed Cantabrians, I say that stints at Lancaster Park have played an important part in my life over the years, and that is not just because it is the home of Canterbury’s favourite sons, the Crusaders.
Firstly, I congratulate everyone who has been involved in developing this bill and bringing it to Parliament: the Victory Park Board, the Christchurch City Council, Ngāi Tahu, sports and entertainment user groups, and the public. I particularly thank Ian Thomson, solicitor for the city council, and Bryan Pearson, of Vbase, who have been instrumental in developing and explaining the need for the legislation. I too pay tribute to Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, who, for the benefit of the people of Christchurch and Canterbury, have agreed to the promotion of this bill and have generously deferred their rights under the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act 1998 so that Lancaster Park can be redeveloped now—and it needs it.
Lancaster Park has had many different types of ownership over the years. It was in private ownership from 1881 until World War I, and then, to celebrate the end of the war, the Victory Park Act 1919 vested the title to the land in the Crown so that it could be held in trust. That trust has worked well for the last 89 years, but now those assets are to be handed over to the Christchurch City Council and, with them, the responsibility to fund the necessary updating and redevelopment of the site so that it will become a modern sports stadium that we can all enjoy.
The plans for Lancaster Park in the bill have been discussed and worked on for years, so everyone has had a chance to have a say and the issues have been well and truly ironed out. It has pretty much unanimous support. The process has been intelligently
and sensibly handled, and the decisions have gone smoothly. This is in sharp contrast to other cities that cannot make up their minds about stadiums and that squabble loudly and publicly over where, when, and how. Christchurch, and Canterbury, just quietly get on with the job, and our stadium, rebuilt and beautiful, will be finished and looking great well before the Rugby World Cup starts.
Like with most Cantabrians, events at Lancaster Park have shaped my life. My family would not be as it is if Pop had not learnt his lessons well in boot camp at Lancaster Park. Before he went off to the Pacific in World War II, he spent 6 weeks there doing his basic training. He says that he will never forget it. Trainees did not have any tents. They slept on the wooden seats in the stands. Conditions were primitive. They had a cold tap under the stands for washing and shaving. They drilled in the grounds and they marched off to Sydenham Park for further training. Pop is 90 now, and he had a tough war, but he did come home. I have often wondered whether it was the quality of the training at Lancaster Park that kept him alive.
I also remember very well the day that my first son was due to be born. It was a gorgeous summer day and a one-day cricket match was on at Lancaster Park. As my son did not seem to want to arrive, we decided to go to the cricket. I do not much remember the score or even the match, but I do remember the looks—the very understanding looks—when I, with my huge stomach out in the front, sailed through the men’s urinal on the way to the toilet. I had to do that because the queue for the women’s conveniences stretched right around the whole stadium. It needed redevelopment even then.
With two small sons and a rugby-mad husband, I have watched dozens of Crusaders games. I really enjoy going to the matches, but I have to confess that it is the horses, the Crusaders music, and the colour that get me excited about a match, rather than the game itself, and I think that that is true of a lot of other Cantabrians.
I have been to dozens of concerts, too. I have been to all types, from the sweaty excesses of Meatloaf to the cool tunes of B B King—and, yes, Dire Straits—but I do not remember doing anything that might make a seagull choke!
Yes, Lancaster Park is central to the Christchurch way of life. It has been well used in the past and it has served many purposes, and this bill will make sure that it is redeveloped to meet our needs now and into the future.
I also take this opportunity to pay tribute to Tim Barnett, who as the local constituent MP has sponsored this bill. He has worked hard on this bill, as he always does for Christchurch Central, and we will miss him when he stands down at election time. But I can assure him that he will not have to worry about the people of Christchurch Central in the future. After a lifetime of living in Christchurch and over 6 years as a politician in the city, I understand the problems of our community and I will work hard, with energy and enthusiasm, to get some long-term improvements for the central city. So I say to Tim to enjoy the next phase of his life and not worry about the electorate. I will look after it for him.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Marian Hobbs): Before I call the next speakers, I just remind members that there are now 5-minute calls with a bell at 4 minutes.
KATE WILKINSON (National)
: I had a real battle with my Otago colleague Jacqui Dean even to get this call. I thought it would be absolute hypocrisy and a disgrace if we had an Otago Highlanders supporter speaking in favour of Lancaster Park. Lancaster Park is an absolute Canterbury icon, and only a passionate, parochial, and one-eyed Cantabrian—as Mr Barnett, Ms Wagner, and I are—could possibly speak in favour of the Christchurch City Council (Lancaster Park) Land Vesting Bill.
This bill is about Lancaster Park. Some call it Lancaster Park, some call it Jade Stadium, some call it AMI Stadium, but most of us are old enough that we still call it Lancaster Park. I am disappointed that we have had speeches about Lancaster Park and nobody has mentioned Robbie Deans, nobody has mentioned Fergie McCormick, nobody has mentioned Andrew Mehrtens, Dan Carter, or Richard Hadlee. So many sporting talents have played and entertained us at Lancaster Park. It is an absolute Canterbury icon.
I still remember, when I went to the Ranfurly Shield when I was quite young, a 6-all draw, saved by a Fergie McCormick penalty. I think it was against Auckland. We retained the Ranfurly Shield. I have been to many Crusaders finals. I even went to the Crusaders final—or it might have been the National Provincial Championship—that was played under fog. Nobody could see the game at all. If we looked at the television we could not see the game. If we looked at the match being played on the field we could not see it. We did not know whether the players were going right or left. But at the end of the game we were advised that the Crusaders had indeed rightfully won.
It is my real pleasure to speak in favour of Lancaster Park. It is a stunning sports stadium. It is an absolute disgrace in this day and age, when it is lauded here as being the modern sports stadium for the future, that it may not even feature a Rugby World Cup semi-final in 2011. I do think that is a shame. Maybe we could have a Supplementary Order Paper at the Committee stage— or maybe it could be given proper scrutiny at the select committee—that requires a Rugby World Cup semi-final, at the very least, to be held at our wonderful Lancaster Park stadium.
We have heard of the Crusaders’ horses racing round the stadium, in preparation for a Crusaders game. The Crusaders are one of the most successful franchises in New Zealand’s rugby history. It is only fitting that they display their skills and their talent in an iconic sports stadium such as Lancaster Park. I am very proud to support this bill at its first reading.
MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West)
: It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak. As people will be aware, I am not from Christchurch, but I think it is relevant that a Hamilton member should take a call to acknowledge and pay tribute to what is a national ground of iconic status. I know that my good colleague Tim Barnett has worked very hard with the Christchurch City Council on the Christchurch City Council (Lancaster Park) Land Vesting Bill. He gave an absolutely brilliant historical account of these grounds.
I know that Brendon Burns, the very wonderful Labour candidate—[Interruption] Brendon Burns is a very hard-working person, and he certainly wants me and the people in this House to promote this bill. I know that he will be working, and is already working, very, very hard for the people of Christchurch Central. He will make a great contribution. He is a passionate supporter of Canterbury and Christchurch.
I have here
Lancaster Park: An Illustrated History
by Don Neely and Joseph Romanos. It is a wonderful publication. It gives a fantastic history. Indeed, even though I come from the Waikato, the home of Rugby Park, which is now the Waikato Stadium, and which I suspect will be hosting one of the semi-final matches of the Rugby World Cup—[Interruption] I tell Mr Colin King opposite not to shake his head. Believe you me, we in the Waikato are on a roll. I am looking forward to the Waikato certainly being one of the significant venues for the Rugby World Cup. This is a brilliant book. It talks about the history of Lancaster Park, and even touches on the painful times, in many senses, of the Springbok Tour.
It gives a very interesting account from Benj Drake, who I believe was the then president and chairman of the Canterbury Rugby Football Union. He states: “I sat next to Ces Blazey [New Zealand union chairman]. The game was delayed while the ground
was cleared. When it began, Ces and I looked at each other and said, ‘Thank God’. It had been very violent. There was non-stop chanting in the background. The protesters were mainly on the street on the east of the ground and the atmosphere was most unpleasant.” The book makes the point that the demonstrators represented a large cross-section of the community that day, and their ranks included future members of Parliament: Marian Hobbs; now the late—very sadly—Rod Donald; the future world triathlete champion, Erin Baker, who many years later became a Jade Stadium board member; and Methodist Minister the Rev. Brian Turner.
I know that you, Madam Assistant Speaker, will have both happy and poignant memories of that ground. This is one time when you will be frustrated at being in the Speaker’s Chair, because you cannot make a contribution to this debate, and I know that you would want to, because of your own proud Christchurch credentials. I am sure that you, as a Christchurch school principal, had a number of your pupils attend that stadium, both legitimately and not legitimately. I suspect some went AWOL occasionally, to some of the midweek games. You would have spoken to them very sternly in your office, and would have been taking control and looking after them, as well.
Again, I think the Christchurch City Council (Lancaster Park) Land Vesting Bill is a really good bill. It is providing significant building blocks in terms of the future management of this iconic ground of nationwide importance. I think it is actually quite good that Parliament reflects on some of the wonderful history and the meaning of this particular park. It is not just about the stands and the bricks and mortar. Having looked through this publication that I have alluded to, I say that the park reflects the character and history of our society. It is with great pleasure that I support this bill, and with great pleasure that I say it is really good that as a nation we should recognise and reflect on the history of facilities such as Lancaster Park.
I certainly wish our Canterbury colleagues well in their attempt to host one of the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup. But again, very clearly, the Lancaster Park development will probably increase the chances of that. I want also to acknowledge Ngāi Tahu in terms of the settlement legislation and the fact that the local rūnanga, the local iwi—tangata whenua—have certainly joined with the interests of the broader Christchurch community and support this bill.
I look forward to the redevelopment of this truly historic park into a world-class sports arena. Thank you, Madam Assistant Speaker.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
: Tēnā koe, Madam Assistant Speaker. Kia ora tātou i te Whare. Members probably do not know this, but over a century ago a humble advertisement promoted a major event to be held at Lancaster Park in Christchurch. The notice read something like this: “Tena Koutou, Tena Koutou. Haere Mai, Haere Mai. Kapai the Pakehas, Kapai the Maoris of the North Island.”
With that auspicious welcome, a Māori carnival was held at Lancaster Park. It was established to raise funds for what was called the Mahanui Māori Council. Ka pai the Pākehās, ka pai the Māoris. This carnival was held on 12 and 13 November 1903 and it was the largest gathering of its kind, with over 200 people attending. Amongst them were representatives of key pā sites at Tuahiwi, Taumata, Port Levy, Little River, Raupaki—now called Rāpaki—and Temuka. It is a history that does not rate too much of a mention in this Christchurch City Council (Lancaster Park) Land Vesting Bill—a bill that takes as its primary motivation the need to redevelop Lancaster Park as a modern sports stadium for the future.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Marian Hobbs): Excuse me, members, but can we just lower the level of the general conversation. Thank you.
TE URUROA FLAVELL: Thank you, Madam Assistant Speaker.
In a land that so often prides itself on its youthfulness, it would be great if we did not lose sight of the invaluable history that can be associated with historical sites such as Lancaster Park. The Māori Party believes that the advancement of Aotearoa cannot be achieved without celebrating, promoting, and, indeed, reflecting on the notable events over time that distinguish our history. I am told that the people of the Sioux nation have a saying that a people without history is like wind in the buffalo grass. We need to understand our history, to learn from it, and to create a record, or else the people and the events of our past will disappear like the wind in the buffalo grass—or, perhaps in our case, amongst the pīngao.
Let us not forget that at Lancaster Park on 3 February 1962 Peter Snell established a world half-mile record, as well as breaking the world record for the 800 metres, and he set an unofficial world record for the 660 yards. On 15 August 1981 a day of massive protest action around the country was galvanised at Lancaster Park, as demonstrators vented a little bit of anger at the first day of the infamous Springbok Tour. In around 1982, or 1983 maybe, I sat on the sidelines as a reserve for Auckland against Canterbury.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Did you get beaten?
TE URUROA FLAVELL: I cannot remember whether we won or lost. In 1985 there was the Ranfurly Shield encounter between Canterbury, coached by Alex Wylie, and Auckland, coached by John Hart—
Jacqui Dean: Who?
TE URUROA FLAVELL: —John Hart—at Lancaster Park. It is said to be the greatest game in the history of the national provincial championship. In 2003 a dramatic new stadium won the New Zealand Institute of Architects Resene Supreme Award for Architecture. Perhaps less gloriously, I am told by my co-leader Tariana Turia—even though she was not watching—that Lancaster Park was the location where, in 2006, All Black Jerry Collins decided to spontaneously irrigate the sacred grounds, thereby creating massive outrage and talkback debate. My co-leader told me about that. And right now loyal Cantabrians are waiting for the announcement of the new name of the east stand, as the groundwork is laid for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
All of these people have earned a rightful place in the history of Lancaster Park, including, of course, Benjamin Lancaster, of Bournemouth, England, who previously owned the land. The issue of ownership and occupation gives Lancaster Park its most distinctive place in history.
This bill is one of only a few that have come to the House where we can say that the mana whenua have been fully consulted and are clear supporters and participants in the drafting of this bill. Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu has confirmed that there has been an honest and open consultation process with both the Victory Park Board and the Christchurch City Council with regard to the future development of the park. Ngāi Tahu have always considered themselves to be major players in the southern economy and the southern community. Therefore, it is clearly in their interests, and in the interests of the greater Christchurch community, to support the development of the site as a prestigious sports stadium. Ngāi Tahu also note that the Christchurch City Council has an excellent track record in its relationships with Ngāi Tahu—negotiations that the iwi themselves describe as honourable.
This bill clearly demonstrates that the intent and meaning of the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Act were followed and upheld, and that the provisions provided in the Act were sufficient. That in itself may yet be another reason to distinguish this bill from the crowd, in that the settlement legislation has been recognised and adhered to as a vital mechanism for an ongoing relationship between Ngāi Tahu and local authorities.
Ka pai, Ngāi Tahu. Ka pai, Christchurch City Council. The Māori Party is happy to support this bill.
TIM BARNETT (Labour—Christchurch Central)
: For the last few minutes the House has been discussing Australasia’s most famous sporting venue, Lancaster Park AMI Stadium, in my Christchurch Central electorate. I have to thank my four colleagues for their contributions. I thank in particular the member from Waikato and the member for Waiariki for their validation of the importance of Jade Stadium, and I thank my two Christchurch colleagues for that, as well.
We have barely scratched the service, because there is extraordinary depth and wealth to the history of this institution. I have to say there has not been deep discussion about the actual content of the legislation, because, really, it has inspired us to wax lyrical about Lancaster Park. One serious point I have to make is that I indicated to the promoters of the bill that I was seeking to introduce a small, non-contentious amendment to make sure that the legislation, within its text, contained recognition of the link back to Victory Park. Originally I hoped that this first reading would take place towards the end of last year, when we celebrated the 90th anniversary of Passchendaele. I thought it was very appropriate to make sure that that link back to the First World War was recognised, and I will discuss with colleagues how we do that. I am sure there are ways of doing it without having any massive effect on the legislation.
The only other point I want to make is to assure residents of the Charleston neighbourhood—a very heavily Labour-voting area right next to the stadium—that the member who spoke earlier and claimed that the National Party was about to take over the area was merely raising terrifying concepts that will never become a reality. The thought that the Charleston neighbourhood could ever be represented by a National member of Parliament is both frightening and laughable. People of Charleston vote Labour, and they are well represented by the Labour Party. They have had superb benefits from the Working for Families package, KiwiSaver, and other programmes of this Government over the last few years. They would rise in anger approaching civil disobedience at the thought of a National member of Parliament representing them. With that thought and with those words of comfort for the people of Charleston, I take my leave.
referred to the Local Government and Environment Committee.