15 Feb 2015

SkyCity drops funding bid

9:50 pm on 15 February 2015

SkyCity says its decision to drop a push for taxpayer money for its convention centre in Auckland does not amount to a backdown.

The casino-operator is revising its design, so its costs stay at about $400 million. It means the venue could end up smaller than originally planned.

An artist's impression of the convention centre.

An artist's impression of the convention centre. Photo: SKYCITY

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said SkyCity's board met yesterday and opted to no longer pursue Crown funding.

He said the result announced today was reached after SkyCity realised the Government was definite about not wanting to handover taxpayer money.

The centre in downtown Auckland was supposed to cost just over $400 million, but SkyCity made a push for up to $130 million more in public money when costs blew out.

New designs will be done in the coming weeks.

Steven Joyce announcing the change to the SkyCity deal in Auckland.

Steven Joyce announcing the change to the SkyCity deal in Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

Steven Joyce said the Government would not accept the centre being any more than about 10 percent smaller.

"We have indicated today that we are prepared to accept a slightly smaller NZICC if that's required to meet the agreed total construction cost, but again that's at the Crown's option, we have to decide whether we'll accept that."

Mr Joyce said the Government had reset some very clear parameters and it was up to SkyCity how it would respond.

Andrew Little talking to reporters about SkyCity at Parliament.

Andrew Little Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

He said the casino operator may choose to put more money into the project, but this was up to SkyCity to decide.

Mr Joyce said he was pleased SkyCity had agreed to work with the Government's approach.

SkyCity said its decision to drop a push for taxpayer money for its controversial convention centre in Auckland does not amount to a backdown.

SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison said the decision gave the casino-operator the clarity it needed to move forward and it remained committed.

He said it was too early to say if the design would end up being smaller.

"Basically we said to the Government you can either help us fund it or we have to redesign it. As a result of that we've had a decision today that they would like us to redesign it. We will do that and we will hopefully bring it in as a cost a lot closer to $402 million.

"The Government has made it clear it will be absolutely our cost," Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison said SkyCity was confident it could deliver what he called an outstanding convention centre.

Labour Party leader Andrew Little said the fact that no public money would be spent on the SkyCity convention centre was a victory for taxpayers.

Mr Little said it was clearly a back-down in response to public opposition.

"The message has been pretty clear all of last week is that nobody has got any tolerance or patience for the Government stumping up money for the convention centre when the Government, particularly John Key and Steven Joyce, promised that there'd be no taxpayer money and when Nigel Morrison himself beat that drum and made it pretty clear that it would be a free convention centre."

Key points from Steven Joyce's announcement

  • The Government is prepared to accept a slightly smaller international convention centre, but no more than 10 percent smaller
  • SkyCity will work on design changes in the coming weeks and submit those on an agreed date
  • The Government has to approve the revised designs
  • Steven Joyce said discussions with SkyCity were "robust"
  • The Minister said it was made very clear in private discussions that the Government saw no role for it to put in significant sums of money
  • Mr Joyce said a conclusion was able to be reached after SkyCity realised the Government was definite about this
  • There are no changes to the concessions in the original plans
  • SkyCity still has the option of using more of its own money
  • Mr Joyce said the revised design would need to have a suitable appearance.

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