Better a free eyesore than a taxpayer funded colliseum

The Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key won’t rule out using taxpayer money to stop SkyCity’s becoming an “eyesore”.

Mr Key expressed doubts over the wisdom of insisting the casino operator sticks to the initial $402 million spending plan for the building of the convention centre.

“I’m keen to see the best convention centre I can for Auckland, because this is a very long-term asset, so I would hate to see some sort of eyesore constructed down town.

I’d hate to see my taxes spent on subsidising ’s convention centre.

“There are issues around the construction of it. Obviously you can spend more and get something that looks a lot better, or spend a bit less and get something that looks worse.”

If the extra money will improve the construction so that more groups will want to use the convention centre, then that is a commercial decision for Sky City. It is not an issue for the taxpayer.

SkyCity and the Government agreed a deal in July 2013 for the casino operator to spend $402 million to build and operate the New Zealand International Convention Centre in exchange for legislation allowing the company to operate additional gambling tables and machines and extending its gambling licence to 2040.

The law was changed in late 2013, but in December last year, SkyCity managing director Nigel Morrison said cost over-runs and “design improvements” had seen the bill blow out to between $470 million and $530 million.

There are two acceptable choices for me.

  1. Sky City builds it with no taxpayer subsidy
  2. Sky City doesn’t build it

I’d prefer (1) but can live with (2). It would be great to have an convention centre in Auckland that can attract global conferences. But not at any price.

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