The Sky City “deal”

Stuff reports:

The Labour Party is calling on Prime Minister John Key “to come completely clean” with details of negotiations for the controversial convention centre.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce is negotiating with the Auckland-based casino to build a $350 million national convention centre in return for changes to the Gaming Act that would allow it to have hundreds more pokie machines.

Key admitted he approached Sky City and asked it to put up its best offer. But he said he had the same conversation with other bidders.

What this story and beatup doesn’t mention is there was no “admission” as if this was some secret the Government was hiding. John Key told the press gallery this in June 2011! Yes at his post-cabinet press conference. How do I know this? Well Felix Marwick of NewstalkZB tweeted it yesterday. He later tweeted why some may have forgotten it. If you want to know what is happening, follow Felix on Twitter. It is fine to have forgotten Key was open about it a year ago, but not okay to have stories appear the next day which do not mention this, and make it still appear it was some sort of secret.

Probably worth me blogging my thoughts on the “deal”. First let’s talk the general. Is this “selling” laws, which has never been done before. No – of course not. Do you recall Michael Cullen agreeing to special tax write offs for the movie industry so they would invest here? This is the normal job of Government – to try and get businesses investing in New Zealand. When Nokia was looking to invest here, they were offered all sorts of inducements.

Now on the specific, some say that increasing the number of pokies at Sky City will increase gambling related harm. Let us accept that. Let us even accept all gambling has some associated harm with it. But New Zealand does not ban gambling. If we did, there would be no money for the Lotteries Board and the thousands of organisations they fund, no money for the racing industry, reduced money for NZ sports teams, and a lot fewer jobs and tax paid in New Zealand.

So when it comes to this deal, surely the appropriate measure isn’t will there be some increased harm from gambling, but how significant will that harm be, and how does that measure against the gains for New Zealand from having an international convention centre.

An ICC means that Auckland can host major world congresses. These to to be of professional disciplines, and the delegates tend to be wealthy. Many will tour New Zealand while they are here.

An earlier Stuff story reported:

TIA has long been advocating for a national convention centre.

It was highlighted as a top priority in the 2008 Tourism Industry Election Manifesto and reiterated in the run-up to last year’s Parliamentary elections as a top priority for government action.

It was estimated a national convention centre would boost New Zealand’s economy by more than $90 million a year, Mr Thompson said.

The estimate is an extra 100,000 visitor nights a year.

And on the jobs front:

  •  Around 1,000 trades job during the construction of the $350 million building
  • Around 900 800 permanent jobs (according to Heart of the City)

For my 2c I want to see the final deal, and the estimated gains and harms before casting judgement on it. But to be blunt if 900 800 families gain a working parent due to these extra jobs, that is a very big gain.

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