3 Aug 2012

Govt eyes private cash for convention centre

1:15 pm on 3 August 2012

The Government is pushing for private sector funding in what would be a bigger and brighter convention centre for Christchurch.

Melbourne conference centre.

Melbourne conference centre. Photo: RNZ - Insight

Such a mixed-funding model was used to build the Melbourne Convention Centre.

The preferred developer planning to fund a new Sky City convention centre in Auckland talks of it bringing a $90 million annual contribution to the local economy.

But Australia is already extensively investing in expanding its big conference centres, raising the question of whether there is still scope for other New Zealand venues to compete.

The federal government is budgeting $A370 million for the 2014 G20 summit, which is expected to inject $A20 million into Brisbane's hotel sector and another $A30 million into the local service sector.

And the Melbourne Convention Centre built on the banks of the Yarra River was sited on Government land, using $A350 million in state funding, with a contribution by the private sector, says a professor in Tourism at Melbourne's Victoria University, Brian King.

Public money was combined with cash from private partners which have a further 25 years to run on contracts for services such as security and cleaning, and get paid for use of the convention centre.

But there are differing views on whether convention centres are suited to a public-private partner funding structures.

In Adelaide, State Treasurer Jack Snelling says he does not consider mixed funding to be the right approach for convention centres.

He is not interested giving the the Sky City group that runs the local casino a concessional tax deal on gambling in return investment in a two-stage redevelopment of the associated convention centre, which is being backed by the state government.

More on this can be heard on Insight on Sunday.