14 Sep 2011

No projections done on RWC opening crowds

10:05 pm on 14 September 2011

Auckland councillors have heard that no work was done to estimate how many people might turn up for festivities on the opening night of the Rugby World Cup.

The council met on Wednesday to consider changes to public transport and event arrangements after chaos and overcrowding on the waterfront during Friday's opening ceremonies.

An estimated 200,000 people swamped the inner city, several people were injured and police made 64 arrests.

Train delays also meant hundreds of ticket holders missed the official opening ceremony and/or the opening match at Eden Park.

Veolia Transport says 60,000 people tried to board trains into the city - double the expected number - for Eden Park.

The chief executive of the council's events agency, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, told the meeting event planners did not make a model of projected numbers.

Michael Redman said they focussed only on how much space to provide in the waterfront fan zone.

On the night, there were 30,000 more people than the zone could handle, with ferries unable to disembark passengers because the terminal was packed.

Auckland councillor Richard Northey, who chaired the meeting, told Checkpoint that both the events company and the council could have done better.

However, he defended the use of the social networking site Facebook as a way of trying to predict possible crowd numbers.

Mr Northey says they will endeavour to do more accurate forecasting in the future.

Recommendations adopted

Councillors voted 10-7 to accept the review's recommendations, which included expanding the Queens Wharf fan zone on to Cooks Wharf and better protecting the access at the ferry terminal.

More buses, security and support staff will be provided for future Eden Park matches and festivities.

People who missed the opening ceremony and match will get tickets to the semi-final that would feature the All Blacks should they qualify.

Those who missed only part of Friday's match should get tickets to the probable All Blacks quarter-final.

Communication could have been better - PM

Prime Minister John Key has acknowledged the communication between government ministers and Auckland mayor Len Brown over the Rugby World Cup arrangements could have been better.

Mr Brown says he had no warning of Rugby World Minister Murray McCully's announcement on Tuesday that the Government would invoke special powers under the provisions of the Rugby World Cup Empowering Act, to extend the fan zone beyond its current limits.

Mr Key says Mr McCully was working on the assumption that the mayor had been kept appraised by his own officials.

The Prime Minister says, in hindsight, Mr McCully could have picked up the phone and informed the mayor directly of his plans.

Councillors were told at Wednesday's meeting that despite Mr McCully's announcement there was no material change to who was running events on the waterfront.

Veolia to meet some costs

Rail company Veolia says it will contribute to any fund used by the Auckland Council to pay compensation.

Several thousand people were caught on trains that were significantly delayed on the way to Eden Park railway station on Friday.

So far 34 rail passengers say they missed the entire evening and 400 missed part of the opening ceremony or match.