Christchurch Convention Centre not expected to be moneymaker, requires Government funding

It's the centrepiece of Christchurch's rebuild, but the council doesn't want it - and it's not expected to be a moneymaker. 

Te Pae - the new convention centre - will open next month, but it's forecast to run at an operating loss and will require Government funding.

The path is still being paved at Christchurch's Convention Centre, a project that's a year overdue largely thanks to COVID. And when it does open, it's forecast to operate at a loss.

"It's a bit like a swimming pool or a public library," says Ōtākaro chief executive John Bridgman. "The value is in the benefit it brings to the city and so we're not expecting the thing to be a money-making venture as such."

Documents obtained by Newshub under the Official Information Act show earlier this year Treasury asked Ōtākaro for forecasts showing operating losses until the 2030/31 financial year. The detail of those forecasts have been kept a secret. 

"The way we've got it set up with the operator and the commercial arrangement we have with them, it's better if I don't discuss that in great detail," says Bridgman. 

A month later, a proposal was sent to ministers for approval "to provide funding to Ōtākaro to partially cover forecast Te Pae operating losses".

Just how much funding is needed has not been made public, but Government signed it off.

Associate Finance Minister Megan Woods wouldn't do an interview for this story and wouldn't reveal how much the Government has agreed to cover.

The Crown originally wanted Christchurch City Council to take ownership of the Convention Centre but they declined, "citing weak commercial projections".

Businesses though are ready and waiting for the estimated $60 million that visitors will spend in the next year.

"Out of the Anchor projects it probably is the one that's going to bring the biggest spend to the businesses in the city," says Annabel Turley, chair of the Central City Business Association.

That cash spend coming as a welcome present in time for Christmas. 

"We'll have the ceremonial opening on the 17th and we've got a couple of test events through December up until Christmas," says Bridgman. 

But it's likely to be some time yet before the building that is all shades of grey - is in the black.