“IT’S the only game in town,” said CINZ ceo Alan Trotter, speaking at a special briefing at MEETINGS 2012, about what he described as the drama and saga between the New Zealand government and the legislative changes they are offering SkyCity to build a $350m national convention centre in Auckland.
In return for this grace and favour, SkyCity is seeking an extension of its gambling license and an increase in the number of their poker machines and gaming tables.
“These discussions started a year ago,” said Trotter.
“What the industry needs is for the discussions to stop and for the building to proceed.”
Now, it appears the controversial deal is to be investigated by the auditor-general’s office.
New Zealand’s Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei, who requested the investigation, said the Government could ‘’not possibly proceed with the SkyCity deal’’ while the inquiry was going ahead, because its terms of reference ‘’cut to the heart of the decision to award the contract to SkyCity in the first place’’.
“I raised concerns about the fairness and adequacy of the process, especially given SkyCity was offered a law change that gave it more pokies in exchange for building the centre, and the deal didn’t appear to consider the huge social and financial costs of increased gambling.”
When the argy bargy ceases and the Centre becomes a reality, it is expected to have a capacity to host 3500 people.
This breaking news yesterday of the investigation caused Trotter, who initially said an announcement on the commencement of the project would be known in about eight weeks, has altered his prediction to at least three months.
“If it was up to our Prime Minister, we’d have a convention centre on every street corner in the country,” he added with customary Trotter humour.
Trotter said his dream was to have three new convention centres in the next five year. An international Convention Centre in Auckland, an international Convention Centre in Christchurch and a national Convention Centre in Queenstown.
From a convention arrivals perspective Trotter went on to say that New Zealand is doing well, with 70,000 arrivals in the past year, 70% of which are Australians.
“The challenge is to get more Australians to stay longer.
“The feeling is because we are just a few hours away, it is easy to fly in and fly out.”