Eden Park concerts: Bid to stage concerts at stadium supported by local residents

A community group advocating for Eden Park stadium to operate as a concert venue says the majority of locals are supportive of the idea - yet are often misrepresented as the ones holding back the process.

It was revealed on Monday that crowds of up to 60,000 could attend weekend concerts at Eden Park, if its bid to get approval to host six concerts per year succeeds.

The owners of the national stadium opened its arguments on Monday at the start of a five-day hearing. The concept has proved divisive in the suburban area surrounding the venue - yet Eden Park Residents Association spokesperson Shona Tagg says only a small group of locals actively oppose the idea. Arguments against the stadium being utilised a concert venue typically are based on noise concerns and disorderly crowds. 

However, Tagg says "most residents are happy with the idea", saying the community as a whole is often blamed for why the purpose-built grounds are not utilised as a concert venue.

"We do want concerts," Tagg told The AM Show on Tuesday. "We just want it to be used."

In December last year, the national stadium announced it would file a publicly notified resource consent application to host up to six concerts a year, allowing the public to have their say on the proposal. 

Under Auckland Council's Unitary Plan, the stadium is entitled to apply to hold up to six shows annually as a "discretionary activity". However, experience has shown that applying for individual resource consents for each concert is an unattainable proposition for both the stadium and music promoters, the drawn-out process a major put-off for concert planners.

Research undertaken at the beginning of the year found 87 percent of local residents supported Eden Park hosting up to six concerts per year. Tagg says 95 percent of the Eden Park Residents Association, a group comprising more than 200 members across 168 local households, support the notion - a quarter of which reside within 100 metres of the stadium.

She says many locals like the idea of listening to music from their backyards with a beverage, and want to make better use of their proximity to the stadium. She also dismissed the idea that parents were worried about the events disrupting their children, with more than half of the Association's members having school-aged or young children.

"Eden Park was there, and I moved next to it," Tagg declared. "It's part and parcel of living in the community."

Yet the group has a high-profile supporter in Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who told The AM Show that she has an "open mind".

"I come in with a very open mind. I'm not coming in with a vehement opposition. But I do want to hear what the community around the park are interested in saying," she said. 

However, the Prime Minister - who resides in Sandringham - noted she is not directly impacted by the proposal.

"I'm very mindful I'm a bit of a distance from the park, so it doesn't affect me as acutely as those who are closer. I am interested in what the hearings tell us about what people's views are. It is a slight increase - it's not a dramatic number, but it does have an impact."

One of the more prominent opposers is nearby resident Helen Clark. In 2018, the former Prime Minister came out fighting against a proposed charity concert, to be held at Eden Park in 2019 to raise money for a baby incubator scheme.

Clark submitted her disagreement to Auckland Council, claiming the concert was simply a "Trojan horse" to allow the council's park management division to hold more noisy concerts at the stadium in the future.

The former Labour MP also criticised the planning application proposed by Eden Park for failing to include details about noise management, which would be disruptive for the 4000 households within a 1 kilometre diameter of the venue. 

Clark and an expert witness will make a 30-minute presentation on Wednesday to the independent commissioners.

Yet Tagg dismissed Clark - a "formidable" opposition, according to co-host Amanda Gillies - as "just one voice".

"She's just one voice. It doesn't matter that she's been the previous Prime Minister of the country. She represents one household, therefore her voice shouldn't be any stronger or any louder than any other voice."

The Association is campaigning for the resource consent requirement to be waived, giving the stadium the green light to host six concerts per year - but it's a long process.

"We should be allowed that. We go in and [present] what the residents are saying and we're giving our weight to that conversation to say that we're really supportive," she said.

Eden Park's bid to stage six concerts has been conditionally supported by Auckland Council planners, Stuff reports, the trust board generally agreeing with the council's proposed conditions on noise limits and the spread of concerts in the yearly calendar.