Key Defends SkyCity Convention Centre Saga

Publish Date
Monday, 16 February 2015, 10:09AM

John Key is defending his rhetoric around the SkyCity convention centre.

The casino operator has been told to build the convention centre within the $402 million it initially agreed to.

The Prime Minister told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking he did not support taxpayer funding, but was simply keeping his options open.

"I said, 'no, I can't say things are on or off, we're having a negotiation'."

"Anyway, we had a negotiation and it's going to work out well."

Key says SkyCity was within its right to ask for a top-up from the Crown.

"Some of the points SkyCity were making were totally valid, but in the end I just think that the public opinion on this, we all need to live within our means and that's what we're going to do."

Government to blame

Meanwhile, SkyCity is laying the blame for convention centre cost overruns squarely with the Government.

SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison says they've been working with the government for some time.

"It was a design that met their aspirations and the consequences of all that was the cost was significantly greater than what we contracted for."

Morrison says SkyCity can afford to put another $20 million to $30 million towards the centre but says they now need to move quickly.

"We think there's a window of opportunity that if we can get on with it, we can actually save some money by getting on with it."

Morrison says the size and scale of the convention centre will not diminish significantly.

"It'll still be equally attractive, we believe, in terms of attracting mid-range conferences with delegates up to 2500 and that's where the core of the market is.

"So I think the government will get all its GDP objectives and employment objectives."

 However, Auckland Chamber of Commerce says neither the Government nor SkyCity will come out looking good over the Auckland Convention Centre deal.

Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett says commitment to the original deal is what New Zealanders expected.

"They may need to scale it back again, being a $400 million investment and revenue to this country is over $90 million a year."

Rare crack seen over SkyCity saga

The SkyCity deal has exposed a rare crack in the National caucus.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce refused to rule out public money, while Finance Minister Bill English opposed it.

Political commentator Bryce Edwards says the deal has exposed a bit of faction fighting.

"Governments always do have lots of different factions in them and parties do.

"National's very good at keeping them below public level, but in this case Steven Joyce is the loser."

Edwards says Bill English has exposed himself as leadership material once again.

Opposition slam downsized centre

The possibility of a downsized SkyCity convention centre has sparked a claim of broken promises.

Labour leader Andrew Little says a world class centre with no taxpayer cash was the original deal, and SkyCity needs to deliver it.

"They won't want to walk away from a 28-year extension to their monopoly on casino gambling in Auckland and the government, if they know their job, if they know how to negotiate, if they're tough, they'll be holding SkyCity to the deal."

Little says the deal wasn't just for no taxpayer money, but also for a world class facility.

"When I see a multi-national corporate the size of SkyCity saying that they'll go away and redo their drawings that will fit the budget, then I worry frankly.

"I think New Zealanders should be worried that this may well be the eyesore that John Key anticipated."

Green Party spokesperson Denise Roche says if SkyCity can't deliver, the government should put the project back out to tender.

"I thought part of the initial deal where they got all the concessions and the law changes was that it would be a convention centre of a certain size.

"They don't even know if it's viable anymore."

Newstalk ZB

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