Over at Kiwiblog, DPF has an interesting post with background information on the proposed building on a convention centre at the Sky City casino. We're not going to reproduce vast tracts of it; we merely suggest that you go and read it for yourself.
But last things first; we really agree with his concluding line where he says "But to be blunt if 900 families gain a working parent due to these extra jobs, that is a very big gain." As we blogged yesterday on the post about Australian companies sending jobs this way, jobs are the one commodity that the New Zealand economy really needs.
And to those journalists, politicians and bloggers who have been overcome with outrage this week, all we can ask is this; the issue has been in the public domain since June 2011 when John Key made an announcement at his weekly post-Cabinet media conference,and when the Beehive website carried media releases from both the PM, and from Economic Development Minister David Carter; Carter's presser includes the following:
Mr Carter says SkyCity’s proposal is favoured because it offers by far the best level of benefit to taxpayers, the company has a good track record in the convention business and the location is good.Under the proposal, SkyCity would pay the full construction cost of the centre; an estimated $350 million. SkyCity has asked the Government to consider some alterations to gambling regulations and legislation, and the two parties are entering into negotiations.“The negotiations are commercially sensitive, but the Government can rule out any discussion on reducing the age of entry to casinos, allowing SkyCity an internet gambling licence or additional casino licences,” Mr Carter says.“The broad areas of negotiation are an extension of SkyCity’s licence to beyond its current date of 2021 and a proposed increase in gaming tables and machines at the Auckland casino.“Any proposed changes to gambling legislation would be subject to a full public submission process and made in a highly regulated environment.”
This information has thus been in the public domain for almost a year as DPF notes:
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.
We were recently in Melbourne. We were there primarily for a trade show at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. It's a huge complex on the southern bank of the Yarra River, just a few minutes' walk or tram from the heart of the CBD. Check out the Calendar of Events; there is a huge range of events coming up, right through until April 2013. Each of those events brings people from throughout Australia, and many overseas visitors who stay in hotels, eat in local restaurants, and visit the local shops.
Auckland has nothing on that scale, and needs a world-class venue if it is to compete on the lucrative international conference and event market. Visitors to these kinds of events should be welcomed to New Zealand, and the money they spend is a shot in the arm to an listless economy.
We seldom gamble, and although the Crown Casino was just across the road from the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, we weren't tempted to part with any cash at the pokies or the tables; our Scottish heritage takes care of that! We strolled through the casino a couple of times though, and dined at a restaurant there, and saw hundreds of other people doing likewise. In an ideal world, opportunities to gamble would be limited, but it should be noted that the gambling industry is already heavily regulated and scrutinised.
Auckland and New Zealand have the opportunity to get an international-quality convention centre with no capital outlay whatsoever. Sky City will bear the risk, in return for a modest increase in gaming permits. And for those concerned at the increase in pokies at Sky City, here's an analogy for you; is a pub that doubles the number of spirit bottles behind the bar actually going to sell double the amouint of spirits?
UPDATE: We stumbled across this chart from the Department of Internal Affairs shortly after we posted this afternoon:
It shows that the number of pokies in New Zealand peaked in June 2003 at 25,221. When Labour left office (end of 2008) that number had dropped to 20,025, and at last count (Dec 2011) it had further fallen to 18,001. Given the 10% drop in numbers between 2008 and 2011, is a one-off increase of just 2.5% really going to cause widespread harm?