Little: Labour might scrap SkyCity deal

  • Breaking
  • 15/02/2015

Labour leader Andrew Little says SkyCity shouldn't expect any compensation should a future Labour-led Government renege on the convention centre deal struck by the current Government.

Yesterday Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said SkyCity would not be getting any money from taxpayers to build the convention centre, which the casino operator agreed to pay for in exchange for concessions on gambling laws and a 28-year extension of the company's license and monopoly in Auckland.

SkyCity was seeking an extra $130 million, and Prime Minister John Key last week suggested that if the Government didn't cough up, the city might end up with an "eyesore".

The possibility the Government might accede to SkyCity's demands was met with hostility from the public – more than 10,000 people voted in a Campbell Live poll on the issue, with 97 percent opposed.

"Both the Government and SkyCity said no taxpayer money," Mr Little said on Firstline this morning. "The public pressure helped to remind the Government they made a promise – they had to keep it."

Mr Little says the deal was for an "iconic, world-class" convention centre, and if SkyCity can't deliver that with the $402 million budget they've promised, then a future Labour-led Government will consider ripping up its half of the deal.

"If construction has started, we certainly don't intend to go back on it. We'll see what comes out of it. But… if what we get is an eyesore, if we get a white elephant then it's not beyond Parliament to legislate around the 28-year period and maybe shorten that if we think the taxpayer's been short-changed," he says.

"The original legislation said that there potentially could be compensation paid if they didn't get the deal; actually that's a piece of legislation that itself can be changed. SkyCity thinks that Parliament isn't sovereign you know, can't do what it thinks is necessary in the taxpayers' interest. It's got rocks in its head – it's got to understand its risk, but if it's going to play footsie with the taxpayer, Parliament's got a right to go back… and use its power to legislate and say, 'Right, if you're going to short-change the taxpayer, we'll do something about the 28-year extension on the deal."

Without the extra cash, SkyCity says the convention centre it does build will be 10 percent smaller than what it proposed when the deal was originally struck.

Mr Little says with the profits SkyCity has, the Government should insist it builds to the original plan, even if it costs a bit more.

"They're not an unhealthy business, and they've had a 28-year extension to their license... Even if it does go over the $400 million, they should be held to that: you promised iconic and world-class, it might cost you a bit extra than the $402 million but you can afford it, and you should be held to it."

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source: newshub archive