Project cost over-runs


SkyCity is sniffing around the New Zealand government for a $130 million bailout. The initial project estimate was $402 million for a convention centre and enlarged casino.

SkyCity was very clear when the convention centre deal was announced that it would be at no cost to either taxpayers or Auckland ratepayers. That is a clear assumption of the entrepreneurial risks – both the upside of high profits and the downside of cost overruns and losses.

The literature on mega-projects suggests that large engineering projects frequently fail to achieve their intended financial and operating objectives. Nine out of ten mega-projects have cost-over runs:

  1. Miller and Lessard (2000) studied 60 large engineering projects with an average size of $1 billion. Almost 40% of the projects performed very badly and were abandoned totally or restructured after a financial crisis.
  2. Merrow et al. (1988) found that four of the 47 megaprojects they studied came in on budget – the average cost overrun was 88%. Of the 36 projects that had sufficient data, 26 failed to achieve their profit objectives
  3. Flyvbjerg et al. (2003) analyzed 258 large transport projects (toll roads, bridges, railroads, etc.). Cost overruns of 50% to 100% and revenue shortfalls of 20% to 70% were common.


As Jim Rose says, both the risks and the benefits should be borne by .

If it transpired that they could do the convention centre for say $50 million less than budgeted, would they be offering to give that $50 million to the Government?

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