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In the third day of hearings into Wellington City Council’s draft Long-Term Plan on Thursday, Cricket New Zealand chief executive David White said lights were a necessity to be able to target overseas audiences.

The Basin Reserve Trust and Cricket Wellington are supporting a $20 million masterplan that would upgrade the historic ground, including knocking down the Museum Stand, making room for temporary seating for big events, revamping the players’ pavilion and installing telescopic floodlights.

White told councillors there was an increasing opportunity for smaller one-day matches to be held at “boutique” stadiums, rather than large venues such as Westpac Stadium, because the venues looked better on television.

“The Basin Reserve is key to our future for cricket.”

In the past three years, there were 77 international fixtures held in New Zealand, but that was set to increase to 134, so there was “a lot of cricket to go around”, he said.

The council’s Long-Term Plan sets the budgets for the next 10 years, and includes an average rates increase of 3.9 per cent a year. Proposals include $200 million for growth projects, such as $65m for an indoor arena, a $30m film museum and $90m towards an airport runway extension.

The runway extension continued to dominate the hearings, after it also proved a hot topic on Wednesday, with the airport biting back at suggestions the project wasn’t worthwhile and sufficient work hadn’t been done.

On Wednesday the Board of Airline Representatives suggested its research indicated extra costs to the airport about $50m a year would need to be made up, probably by passing it on to travellers, airlines or ratepayers.

But airport board chairman Tim Brown came out firing against those claims, calling it “a complete load of bullshit”.
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The airport had committed that no existing airport users would face extra costs if they did not utilise a longer runway, he said.

Airport chief executive Steve Sanderson said all the extra work being requested would be completed in due course, as was approptiate for a project of this scale, including a cost-benefit analysis. Having a longer runway would open the airport up to direct flights to Hong Kong, and potentially Los Angeles, and from Hong kong they could connect to 99 other Asian destinations, as well as Europe.

“We are building the business case up, we have actually started formally consulting with the airlines.”

The Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce said the majority of its members supported the project. Chief executive John Milford said that, while economic projects were good, businesses carried a large rates burden, so every project had to stack up first – and if it didn’t funding should be returned to the ratepayers.

However other submitters questioned the environmental impact of the project.

Steve Mahoney, from Guardians of the Bays, told the council the project was “fundamentally flawed” and was unlikely to achieve the desired growth for the city. There needed to be proper analysis of the pros and cons before any further work was done, including getting resource consent, he said.

Sea Rotmann told councillors there was no way the economic benefits from an extension would be enough to justify the inevitable impact on the south coast, which would be “severe” and “irreversible”.

“The economics are never going to stack up to make up for that.”

In other submissions, the Citizenship Trust asked that site 9 on the waterfront be gifted to the trust so that a Citizenship Education centre could be built, with facilities for classrooms and accommodation for visiting school children.

Trustee Rawinia Thompson said to few young people were engaged in politics, and better civic education was required to combat that.

Circa Theatre called on the council to increase its annual operating grant from $51,918 to $75,000, and to provide $650,000 towards a refurbishment of its building.

Administration and business development manager Clare Creely said the theatre was an integral part of the city’s cultural scene and needed to be supported.

“It’s all well and good to have festivals, but it’s what’s happening on a Saturday night or on a Tuesday evening.”

Soup kitchen manager Steve Flude urged the council to fund an investigation into homelessness and begging in the city, to get better information about why people were begging and on the streets.

“It’s not just about money,” he said. The research would cost about $50,000 to $60,000.