SkyCity convention centre gets consent

When finished the building will be capable of hosting 3,150 people (Supplied)
When finished the building will be capable of hosting 3,150 people (Supplied)

SkyCity's controversial convention centre has been given the go-ahead, and business leaders say it's "exciting news" for Auckland city.

Independent commissioners granted resource consent for the $470 million New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC), which will begin construction before the end of the year.

Auckland Council announced the decision this morning, and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says the NZICC will be able to attract valuable business visitors from across the Asia-Pacific region.

"The NZICC will drive a significant increase in tourism expenditure in the city and around New Zealand through the estimated 33,000 additional convention delegates and $90 million annual increase in delegate expenditure that it is expected to bring each year," says Mr Joyce.

The consent process was non-notified, which meant the public couldn't make submissions on it. The hearing was held over three days three weeks ago.

"We are working towards concluding a building works contract later this year, having already put months of work into the tender process and with strong interest from outstanding and experienced construction firms," says SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison.

The decision now means SkyCity can go ahead with seeking approval for amendments to its plans, which were agreed to by the Government in May.

The consent also allows for a new 5-star, 300-room hotel.

"The end result will be a boost in Auckland's business activity, including generation of around 10,000 more jobs in the central city and a lot of construction work over the next five or so years," says Auckland Chamber of Commerce head Michael Barnett.

He believes while there may be some disruption during construction, businesses will welcome the long-term benefits the centre will bring to Auckland.

SkyCity is expected to invest at least $430 million in the NZICC, but could spend up to $470 million.

"Importantly, it will be completed without a direct financial contribution from Government or taxpayers," says Mr Joyce.

Conventions and Incentives New Zealand chief executive Sue Sullivan says the construction of the NZICC can't come soon enough to meet the demand from international conference organisers. "New Zealand can now compete on the world stage, challenging Australia and South East Asia for lucrative convention business," says Ms Sullivan. In July, Opposition parties failed to sink the convention centre project by trying to repeal the legislation that allows it to be built.

SkyCity is paying for it in exchange for gambling concessions for its casino, which have been passed by Parliament despite resistance from the Opposition and gambling groups.

When finished, the building will be capable of hosting 3,150 people, and SkyCity plans to construct a laneway with shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.

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