Quarter final games will be moved to Auckland and pool matches will be relocated to other venues in New Zealand, Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully said in Christchurch today.
The prospect of Christchurch hosting the games became unlikely after the 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the South Island city, killing more than 160 people. The temblor wrecked much of the central business district and other buildings that were already weakened by a 7.0 magnitude quake on Sep. 4.
“For an event as important as the Rugby World Cup we need certainty, and unfortunately the only way to achieve that certainty was to agree to move the games,” McCully said. The government will grant NZ$4.1 million ($3 million) for work to begin immediately at AMI Stadium, including complete replacement of the turf, he said.
Finance Minister Bill English said before last month’s quake he expected the nation’s hosting of the event to help stoke an economic recovery in 2011, after the economy contracted in the quarter ended Sept. 30.
New Zealand’s central bank last week cut the official cash rate half a percentage point to 2.5 percent, citing the economic damage of the earthquake. Economic growth in 2011 is expected to be 1.5 percentage points lower because of the Feb. 22 temblor, according to the Treasury Department.
“We have explored every option but, unfortunately, there is no guarantee that with just 25 weeks until kickoff, that the stadium and key tournament infrastructure could be ready in time,” International Rugby Board Chairman Bernard Lapasset said. “We’ve been left with no choice but to relocate it.”
While stadium structures could be fixed in time if normal processes are by-passed, that would place insurance cover at risk, McCully said. Further testing may reveal additional problems and cause further delays, he said.
Christchurch’s AMI Stadium was scheduled to stage seven matches, including two quarterfinals, at this year’s Rugby World Cup, which starts Sept. 9. Attempts will be made to switch pool matches to other South Island venues, McCully said.
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