Sky City convention centre fire

The Sky City convention centre was due to be opened later next year, but that looks unlikely now after a major fire started on the building site yesterday. There are still flames and smoke this morning, with the rood allowed to burn in the hopes of saving most of the building.

This morning:

Flames engulfed the top of the building just after 1pm this afternoon – starting on the seventh floor before spreading to the sixth. The cause of the fire is not yet known.

Bitumen and insulation is on fire and there are also concerns about gas cylinders in the area.

Hundreds of people were also evacuated from the precinct, including the Sky Tower, because of the smoke earlier in the afternoon.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told Lately this evening that firefighters will abandon efforts on the roof of the Convention Centre but their strategy is to stop the blaze from spreading to the fifth level.

Fire and Emergency’s Thomas Harre said it’s been difficult for firefighters to get inside the building and to the top because the fire started in the roof cavity.

The orange glow of flames from the burning centre is clearly visible this evening, and thick black smoke continues to billow from the building.

Fire and Emergency said people may be able to see flames as the crews let some areas burn.

It said this was nothing to be concerned about and was a way to provide access for firefighters to the inside of the building.

Its spokesperson, Dave Woon, said it was “a very, very difficult fire to extinguish”.

RNZ this morning:

SkyCity fire still burning, PM to visit today

Firefighters worked into the night, abandoning the roof, and focusing their efforts instead on preventing further spread to the lower levels.

Dozens of fire units were on the scene, with additional help even arriving from the Hamilton Fire and Emergency branch.

Smoke continued to billow from the building into the CBD precinct yesterday, affecting workers and residents nearby. Those in the area have been warned to either avoid the blocks around SkyCity if possible or take precautions to avoid breathing in the fumes.

SkyCity evacuated its entire Auckland precinct, because of smoke from the fire, with people forced to leave the Sky Tower, casino, all SkyCity hotels and restaurants and corporate offices.

1 News – Live updates: Firefighters continue to battle SkyCity inferno; TVNZ building evacuated

6.37am: The current official health advisory is to stay well way from the fire and out of the trail of smoke, stay indoors and keep windows closed. Shut down external ventilation if smoke is being drawn into your building. See your doctor if smoke has caused shortness of breath or worsening of asthma symptoms.

6.35am: FENZ are reminding people to stay away from the Auckland CBD. 23 fire engines are responding to the fire, including one aerial appliance from Hamilton. An additional 20 units and 16 specialist support vehicles are attending also.

6.31am: Firefighters say an older structure would likely have collapsed under such conditions, but that the Convention Centre is still technically “structurally sound”.

Phil Goff is saying that he now wonders whether it could put back completion years. The convention centre was to be used for an APEC meeting in 2021, that looks at risk now.

Three futile Members’ Bills drawn

There was a Members’ bill draw today, with 68 competing in the ballot.

Convention Centre Act Repeal Bill – Tracey Martin (NZ First) – would repeal the Sky City legislation.

Environmental Protection Authority (Protection of Environment) Amendment Bill  – Meka Whaitiri (Labour) –

Whaitiri said the current law had a “glaring omission” in that it didn’t actually make protecting the environment a goal of the Authority.

Her bill would amend the Environmental Protection Authority Act to add an additional  objective that the organisation must aim to protect, maintain, and enhance New Zealand’s environment.

Fighting Foreign Corporate Control Bill – Fletcher Tabuteau (NZ First)

…would affect the TPPA – it would prohibit New Zealand from entering international agreements that include provision for investor-state dispute resolution.

Source: Aimmee Gulliver at the very useful Beehive Live.

David Farrar at Kiwiblog isn’t impressed – Three silly bills.

Some members bills are very good. But none of them got drawn from the ballot today.

These are all rather silly backwards looking bills.

I predict all three bills will fail to get past first reading.

They probably will fail at the first reading.

Sky City repeal bill: NZ First want to have a second vote on a law that has already been passed. Considering that we have avoided any injection of taxpayer funds into the convention centre, their timing is pretty bad for them.

The (second one) complains that the Environment Protection Authority is not required to protect the environment. This flies in the face of the reality that the EPA has declined almost all the major off shore projects before it on environmental grounds. This is a bill to fix a problem that does not exist.

And the third bill is the most stupid. It would, if retrospective, force NZ to withdraw from basically every international trade agreement we have ever signed, pull out of the WTO, and never take part in any future trade deals. And NZ First claims to be pro-exporters!

They look like politicking bills rather than being aimed at having any chance of success.

Key reacted to public opinion and fixed mistake

It’s good to see that John Key listens to public opinion and is prepared to react to overwhelming sentiments.

NZ Herald: Editorial: SkyCity best bet despite public concern

The Prime Minister has not tried to hide the fact that it was the public who decided the Government should not put public money into an Auckland international convention centre. “In the end I just think that public opinion on this thing, rightly so, was, ‘There’s a deal, leave it as the contract said … ‘ and that’s what we’re going to do.”

There are many attempts at trying to portray opposition party campaigns as representing the public but they usually fail to attract popular support.

The Sky City debacle was different, there was obvious widespread genuine annoyance.

It sounds like the decision was made against his better judgment. He and Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce were both open to the idea of a public contribution last week. They appeared to be softening the country for an announcement that the money would be well spent if it was necessary to secure the $402 million promised by SkyCity 18 months ago for a convention centre of the desired standard.

But the chorus of public disapproval, echoed no doubt in the Government’s private polling, has persuaded them otherwise. A deal is a deal as far as the country is concerned, even if the small print allowed for the possibility of a public contribution in the event that costs escalated.

Good to see that Key noticed and acted and ended up using better judgement in the end. It was embarrassing for him and especially for Steven Joyce but credit to Key for reacting sensibly rather than digging a deeper hole.

Everyone makes mistakes. Prime Ministerial mistakes get mega amplified.

Better leaders fix their mistakes. As Key did in this case.

Sky City blinks

After getting an eye-watering spray of “piss off” Sky City have blinked.

BREAKING: Sky City will not ask the govt for a financial top-up to fund its proposed convention centre. Instead it will re-work the design.

Perhaps they could also re-work their PR strategy.

From Kiwiblog A win for taxpayers (a very prompt post from Farrar):

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce today announced that the Government and SkyCity have reached agreement on the next stages of the International Convention Centre (NZICC) project.

SkyCity has agreed not to pursue a financial contribution from the Government and instead will amend its design to ensure the facility can be completed without financial input from the Crown.

“I welcome SkyCity’s agreement with the Government’s approach,” Mr Joyce says. “This clears the path for the project to continue.

“I have repeatedly stated since December that our least preferred option is for the Government to contribute funding for the project. I am pleased to confirm that will be the case.”

Joyce’s least preferred option was to be held responsibility for the National Government to crash and burn.

PR disaster for Sky City

Larry Williams on the Sky City scam attempt.

My gut feeling is that the Government, if they do give anything to SkyCity it will be minimal.

I might be wrong, but the hostile reaction from the public will have registered.

The biggest loser in all of this is actually SkyCity.

They are perceived as underhand, devious and manipulative, reneging on a deal. Trying to take the Government for a ride.

It absolutely destroys the millions they spend on PR.

This hasn’t looked good for the Government, especially Steven Joyce and John Key until he went into damage control.

But it looked like a cyncial money grab by Sky City. It will take a lot of free seats to games tro repair their PR on this.

Source (Newstalk ZB)

Public opinion pulls Key back from reaching for the Sky scam

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).

Editorial on Sky high costs

Otago Daily Times: Rolling the dice

SkyCity Entertainment and Prime Minister John Key have entered into a game of high-stakes poker over the ”missing” millions to pay for the controversial New Zealand International Convention Centre.

Mr Key’s long game may well be that he is prepared to put more money on the table and gamble New Zealanders will forget his largesse by the next election, in 2017.

With cost blow-outs and time delays almost assured on a project this size, sinking any further taxpayer money into this project is surely inappropriate at this time.

NZ Herald: Govt in corner over SkyCity contract

Vernon Small (Dominion Post): Counting the cost of ‘free’

OPINION: If row of lemons pays out, then the Government has truly struck the jackpot.

Joyce squirming on Sky ‘free plus costs’

While the Sky City scam poses major problems for Key’s Government it is Steven Joyce who is squirming the most, beause he has driven the project and the deal. Vernon Small in Counting the cost of ‘free’:

This week ministers have been trying to rewrite history on just what “free” meant.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce, whose name is on the deal, indulged in contortions unbecoming of a minister of a certain age, claiming the deal was “free to the agreed value of $402m”.

To be fair when the – shall we call it draft deal? – was announced in May 2013 he said SkyCity’s contribution was limited to $315m – a figure that represented the $402m cost less the value of the land.

And he did not rule out extra taxpayer funding at the time.

Joyce also avoided suggesting that a gambling corporation could be handed out milliions of free taxpayer money.

And Joyce was left squirming in Parliament yesterday when questioned by Labour’s David Clark.

Dr David Clark : Why should taxpayer money be given to a casino company that in the last 6 months alone made a net profit of $66.6 million?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : There is no requirement to do so at all, but the discussion is about the construction of a convention centre. It has agreed to build one for $402 million.

Sky City announced their their latest profits yesterday – SKYCITY 2015 Interim Result to 31 December 2014

Dr David Clark : When he proudly announced in July 2013 that Skycity will meet the full costs of the convention centre, was he meaning full costs in a strict legal sense or more in a pretty legal kind of way?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I was referring to the fact that Skycity would pay the full cost of building a $402 million convention centre, and that is still the case. It has proposed that there are some additional costs, and it has come to us to discuss those costs, so we are discussing them.

How can you have ‘additional costs’ to ‘full costs’?

Dr David Clark : Is he aware that the value of Skycity shares surged by $76 million yesterday on the back of comments about a taxpayer-funded bailout, and does this not just show that Skycity knows it has the Government over a barrel of its own making?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would be very surprised if the price of a Skycity share went up by $76 million in 1 day, but I know that the member is a very clever Treasury analyst, so maybe he knows a little bit more about it than we do.

Dr David Clark : I seek leave to table a document showing that the market capitalisation of Skycity rose by $76 million on the day of the Prime Minister’s announcement—

Joyce argued semantics but Clark had got his point across. While he is talking about a very short time period the Sky share price jumped over the last two days:

SkySharesFeb15Joyce’s response was waffly.

Dr David Clark : I seek leave to table a document showing that the market capitalisation of Skycity rose by $76 million on the day of the Prime Minister’s announcement—

Another interuption from Joyce…

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Speaking to the point of order—

Mr SPEAKER : No, I am putting the—[Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! Leave has been sought to table a document. I therefore need to put the leave, and then I can hear a point of order subsequent to that, if you wish to raise one. Leave has been sought to table this particular document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

…but leave was put to table the document. It sounded like a sole objection from the Government side of the house but the point had been made by Clark.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I was referring to the fact that Skycity would pay the full cost of building a $402 million convention centre, and that is still the case. It has proposed that there are some additional costs, and it has come to us to discuss those costs, so we are discussing them.

And Joyce was left trying to explain the unexplainable, how a free convention centre has become free plus costs.

Full draft transcript: 5. Skycity Convention Centre—Funding

Meanwhile there are peitions from both th eleft and the right opposing the costs to taxpayers.

Kiwiblog Sign the petition against taxpayer money for Sky City

The Taxpayers’ Union has a petition against any taxpayer funds going towards the Sky City convention centre, on top of the regulatory concessions that were agreed to.

Currently 908 signatures.

The Standard Say NO to the $140m SkyCity bailout

The Labour Party is organising a petition against the $140 million bailout SkyCity is demanding – and John Key is insisting we have to pay to prevent getting an “eyesore” of a convention centre

You can sign the petition here.

Currently 19,291 people have signed.

Row of Sky lemons a bitter jackpot

Vernon Small recounts the “saga of SkyCity” that has been mired in “mired in bad process, poor negotiating and questionable public policy considerations” – and it is now worse still. Counting the cost of ‘free’:

Right from the start there were serious questions about the wisdom of the deal and the morality of trading the potential social “bad” of more gambling for the centre.

Balanced against this was the desire for Aucklandn to have a world class convention centre.

It got worse in 2013 with Deputy Auditor-General Phillippa Smith’s report. Though it left enough grey among the black and white for John Key to claim vindication and the Opposition to cry foul, it did find badly flawed processes.

In short, the Government gave special treatment to SkyCity although the relationship between politicians and businesspeople was not inappropriate.

That special treatement was claimed because Sky City was offering the convention centre at no cost to taxpayers.

If bids were based on a possible Government handout of $100 million it would have made a substantial difference to what  other bidders would have stepped up.

The report put the blame at the feet of officials, finding the procurement process was not up to standard and SkyCity had information not available to other bidders.

Very poor business practice. I thought National was supposed to be the business savvy party.

This week’s blurt from Key suggesting that without a taxpayer top-up the convention centre risked being an “eyesore” is just the latest lamentable chapter in the saga.

Key’s eyesore comment piled lame on lamentable.

Why is the original design proposal now ‘an eyesore’ when it was lauded by National two years ago.

Why is escalating costs of major development not a surprise? Sky will surely have expected cost increases over two years.

Joyce did not rule out extra taxpayer funding at the time.

“That’s one possibility. One other possibility would be changing a few of the concessions but literally there’s no intention of going beyond the $315m.”

Key’s words, though, left little room for doubt then or since.

“The construction of the new convention centre will not cost taxpayers or ratepayers a cent, with SkyCity meeting the full project costs in return for some concessions from the Government.”

In fact one of the key arguments in favour of SkyCity was that it was seen as the only player willing to pay the full cost.

That’s why they were given ‘special treatment’

The contract in the fine print clearly allowed for cash payments one way or the other but, in selling the unequivocal benefits of the “free” deal, the Government glossed over them. “Wahoo! Flash new free convention centre!” was always going to be a more compelling vote winner than: “Some sort of convention centre, possibly an eyesore, that we may have to chip in for.”

It’s hard not to see this as the Government being sucked in by Sky and are now left sucking lemons – except the bitter taste is in the taxpayers’ (and voters’) mouths.

Nats slam Sky City scam

While NZ Herald reports that Key warm on taxpayer funds for convention centre the reaction has been much colder.

A deal agreed in July 2013 was for SkyCity to spend $402 million on a convention centre based on artists’ impressions.

Late last year, the casino announced that increased construction costs and “design improvements” had seen the bill blow out to up to $530 million, and taxpayer help was needed.

At the very least a business case that far out of whack should raise alarm bells. Being funded by Taxpayers after the whole deal was based on a promise of no cost seems ludicrous, but that seems to be ther Governments intention.

However, Mr Key signalled a preference for at least some public money to be used on SkyCity’s new, more-costly plan.

Mr Key yesterday expressed doubts over the wisdom of insisting the casino sticks to an initial plan to spend $402 million to build and operate the convention centre, saying he would “hate to see some sort of eye-sore constructed downtown”.

Has Key not noticed what downtown Auckland already looks like? Another eye-sore  wouldn’t look out of place.

It isn’t suprising that the left strongly opposes the Taxopayers propping up what was supposed to be an agreement with Sky City’s proposed convention centre and expanded gambling business.

But the response from National’s support base has been just as chilly.

Nat cheerleader David Farrar posted Better a free eyesore than a taxpayer funded colliseum.

If the extra money will improve the construction so that more groups will want to use the convention centre, then that is a commercial decision for Sky City. It is not an issue for the taxpayer.

There are two acceptable choices for me.

  1. Sky City builds it with no taxpayer subsidy
  2. Sky City doesn’t build it

Comments from right and further right in comments are more scathing. Manolo:

If John Key gives up and agrees to a subsidy it will become his and the National Party’s Waterloo.

Likes 36, dislikes 1


Yep…I’m a National supporter.They will lose my support …along with thousands of others ! Key does this as reported and its the same as Abbott ” Knighting ” the Duke of Edinburgh ! Stupidity beyond belief !!

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I think that, if the Government go ahead and put up money for this scheme it could be their downfall.
That would require that Little stop worrying about exactly which day Key knew about Sabin’s actions and that he stop giving National free hits by ruminatiin on Maori having different rights to other New Zealanders.
Little should concentrate on this matter. If National put up the money he can hammer it for the next couple of years, and if they don’t he can claim that they were going to but that he forced them to back off.
Personally I think this is one item that will resonate with the New Zealand public.

Likes 22, dislikes 1

It should be noted that likes/dislikes are indicative but not quantatative, most readers don’t tick.

Interesting that while Cameron Slater posted THE GREAT SKY CITY TAX PAYER ROBBERY, COMING TO A TROUGH NEAR YOU he seems to be quiet on it now.

And comments here yesterday should be a chilling warning to Key and Steven Joyce, who seem to be putting political face saving ahead of business prudence – except if the proceed with a handout to a gambling company they are likely to be slapped in the face, politically.


The Flag, Skycity and Sabin continuing to sit as Chair of the Select Committee are three reasons I won’t be renewing my NP membership just now.

Sponge (also posted at Kiwiblog):

I can see the argument for the Govt chipping in (I can see the reasoning but think it is a shit argument) but from the perspective of giving the opposition a stick to beat you with this is staggeringly stupid. The Nats are now in a no win and no way out situation about SkyCity.

I got an email from National today asking me to renew my membership. They will be getting a shitty response and no money in return. John Key really seems to have developed a cloth ear in the last few months. He needs to get his shit together and pronto. Think of what the government could have been like if JK had not won – that is what we will be facing if they don’t get their fucking act sorted.


I wrote back to the National Party advising why I’m reserving my options. The flag is just a sideshow, taxpayers/ratepayers funding the casino is intellectually insulting, and leaving Mr Sabin in such a position while under a serious investigation – stinks of corruption. Not happy.


I find it hard to see the Government giving money to Sky City.

National are a minority party – they still depend on either Maori Party, Peter Dunne, or Act to pass supply bills. If any of those three passed an appropriation for SkyCity, they’d be flayed alive by their supporters.

And their own backbench are likely to become pretty restless over this. While ring-in opinion polls on Campbell Live are unreliable, a 97% NO result is still pretty decisive on public opinion on the matter.

If Key and Joyce try to prop up a smelly deal with Taxpayer money it’s likely to be a major nail in what’s already a term of arrogance that may become their political coffin.