Strongly expressed public opinion in opposition to a suggestion that the Government hand out money to Sky so they can pretty up their pokie attraction has got through to John Key.
He gambled on Sky and has quickly realised it was no dice. Yesterday he rapidly backed off reaching for the State chequebook.
Vernon Small writes John Key in retreat on SkyCity convention centre.
Prime Minister John Key has toughened up his opposition to putting taxpayer cash into the planned SkyCity convention centre.
In a further retreat from his earlier stance that a cash top up would be necessary to prevent “an eyesore” being built, Key today said he would take a lot of persuading to top up the $402m SkyCity had pledged.
“We structured the deal in such a way that the taxpayer didn’t have to put in money and that’s what I would prefer to see and I’d need a lot of convincing if any other position was going to be adopted,” he said.
‘In the world we live in … in the perfect world … we would like to see them build a convention centre for $402m.”
Bill English’s prudence seems to have been more convincing than Steven Joyce’s corporate generoasity, along with most of New Zealand. The day before yesterday Govt at odds over SkyCity convention centre.
Finance Minister Bill English today appeared to distance himself from signals the Government will put money into the planned SkyCity convention centre to avoid it being an “eyesore”.
English said more taxpayer cash was the least-preferred option in the convention centre issue and so it was “logical” that walking away would be better option.
Prime Minister John Key yesterday all but confirmed the Government will stump up cash for the project, which was now “flasher” than originally proposed.
In the wake of English’s comments, Key today said he agreed with his finance minister’s view.
“It’s our least-preferred option to put in more money,” Key said.
“He’s confirmed that and I’d agree with him.”
‘Least preferred’ was repeated a number of times yesterday as the ‘not preferred at all’ message got through.
Belatedly a Dominion Post editorial has slammed the handout scam in Pokies paradise a folly Nats should let go.
The SkyCity pokie deal with the Government was never a good one. Now it goes from bad to worse.
This is a shambles and it has clearly caused a schism in the Cabinet at the highest levels. Finance Minister Bill English says hitting the taxpayers for more cash is “the least preferred option”.
The deal was badly managed from the start. The tender process was not open and transparent. Cost control has been woeful. And it is truly astonishing that John Key is now suggesting that the $400m centre would be “an eyesore”. So now it seems the choice is between a “free” centre that is an eyesore or a non-eyesore costing the taxpayers as much as $100m or so.
What sort of choice is this? And why was the original deal so loose and vague that the cost could rocket and SkyCity could say that unless it got the extra money it would pull out?
They point out Steven Joyce’s folly has become his embarrassment.
The minister in charge, Steven Joyce, should also feel deeply embarrassed. He has been scathing about projects which require taxpayer subsidies, such as the proposed extension of Wellington Airport.
And an NZ Herald editorial says $402 million enough to buy us the centre we need.
If as Mr Key suggested this week, the added cost arises mainly for aesthetic reasons, SkyCity should be told not to worry. Some people are going to say the centre is an eyesore no matter how flash the building may be.
The design of the existing casino is not universally admired. A big convention centre adjoining it need not be an architectural stunner. Indeed, the artist’s impression made public by SkyCity suggests it will not be.
A $402 million centre, as agreed between the company and the Government two years ago, will do just fine
$402 million may not be enough but that’s Sky’s problem. They sold the deal at that price. They must have known that prices would rise (it was priced two years ago).
They gambled that Joyce and Key would roll over and hand out cash. They misjudged the potential reaction badly.
Key is a close follower of public opinion. He got a resounding message of opposition quickly.
An ugly convention centre now doesn’t seem so bad.
Key now seems to think the least preferred option is to be dragged down into the pokie pits this early in his third term.
The winner here is public opinion expressed strongly. It can make a difference.
(Note to opposition parties – while you did your bit on this it was genuine widespread disapproval rather than manufactured mayhem that turned the tide on this).