23 Dec 2014

SkyCity cash 'non-starter' for councillors

10:50 am on 23 December 2014

Several Auckland councillors say they do not think the council would front up with a cash contribution towards the SkyCity Convention Centre.

The cost of building the centre in Auckland was initially put at $402 million but SkyCity says that could now go as high as $530 million due to rising construction costs.

An artist's impression of the convention centre.

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

The Government suggested Auckland Council could get involved, with Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce telling Morning Report yesterday that Wellington Council had underwritten some costs for the convention centre proposed for the capital.

But the notion was met with dissent from several Auckland Council councillors, who said they did not think the Auckland body could afford it.

Councillors Arthur Anae, Dick Quax, and George Wood said the council's budget was tight enough already.

Mr Anae said the city needed a convention centre for its growth and development.

"We're struggling with the budget at this point in time, to try and deliver what we said we would, and that's by keeping rates down as people demand, so I have a concern as to how we would do it," he said.

"But we do need to do it ... so I would be concerned if there is a further delay in this."

He said the Government had done the deal with the casino, and it was the casino's responsibility to find the money and deliver as it said it would.

"The casino made a commitment to deliver for Auckland, in exchange for certain services they were granted by the Government - that's the beginning and that's the end of it where I'm concerned."

"So if the casino is finding there's been a blow out, it's their responsibility to find the funds to deliver the convention centre."

Councillor Dick Quax agreed and said his personal view was that it would be a "non-starter."

"The council has got a pretty tight budget and that's been pretty well signaled, so why Minister Joyce would say that then maybe the Auckland Council might like to come to the party and provide some cash, I don't know," he said.

Mr Joyce said he was not ruling out using public funds, but said that was the Government's least-favoured option.

Another option could be to scale back the size of the project, he said.

Auckland mayor Len Brown declined to speak to Radio New Zealand, and deputy mayor Penny Hulse said she had not heard anything from the Government about the idea.

A council spokesperson says it had not been approached, and the agreement over the convention centre was between SkyCity and the Government.

Building Industry Federation chief executitve Bruce Kohn said he didn't buy SkyCity's argument that construction costs had spiraled.

Mr Kohn said the industry was competitive, and costs had largely stayed in line with inflation.

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