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Re-run: SkyCity’s convention centre would need $10m+ subsidies – MED

Written By: - Date published: 11:22 am, February 21st, 2013 - 15 comments
Categories: business, capitalism - Tags: , ,

A year ago, I wrote that SkyCity was pursuing the dirty practice of ‘subvention’ – where owners of white elephant infrastructure extort governments for subsidies – for the convention centre. The msm has caught up and is reporting on it now. MED is denying there will be any subvention, but Joyce says it’s all on the table. And what about the $10m+ in operating subsidies the centre would need?

————————————————————————————————

Key’s selling our gambling law to SkyCity in return for a ‘free’ convention centre with no government capital contribution. But, according to the MED, we taxpayers would be subsidising that convention centre with $10m for starters. Plus marketing costs. And, then, ongoing subsidies both if convention numbers fall short and as a kickback when it does bring in conventions.

We know that an international convention centre will never generate a return on the capital invested in it. Which is why no private organisation will do it without the government chipping in money, or doing it legislative favours.

But, the convention centre will, at least, cover its own running costs, won’t it?

Nope. MED’s feasibility study says that an international convention centre would need $10 million of operating subsidies in its first 6 years. Remember, this isn’t about capital costs, which SkyCity is agreeing to pay in full as the price for buying our gambling law. Here’s what MED says:

“it is assumed that the centre’s operating costs will break even. However, in the pre-opening phase, and initial years while the centre is establishing itself, it is likely that operational subsidies will be required. These have been assumed as:
• $2.0 million per annum in each of the three years before opening, for setting up operations and initial
marketing
• $2.9 million in the first year after opening
• $1.4 million in the second year after opening
• $0.5 million in the third year after opening”

On top of that, Tourism New Zealand would be expected to pay for the centre’s marketing:

“Tourism New Zealand, Tourism Auckland and CINZ for example will undoubtedly be active convention marketers.”

Yay! More subsidies. [Important reminder: we can’t afford to extend paid parental leave]

And it gets worse.

See, the fundamental problem with building a great big fuck-off international convention centre in the most isolated country on Earth is that nobody’s going to want to host an international convention centre there. And the other fundamental problem is that there’s already lots of international convention centres, all of them competing for a decreasing number of international conventions.

MED recognises risks – potentially leading to bailouts on top of the subsidies already mentioned – for an international convention centre in the form of a weak global economy (amusingly it says this shouldn’t be a problem because the centre won’t be built until after 2011, by which time everything will be better), increased use of tele-presence, and environmental concerns about flying thousands of people around for what are, invariably, pretty pointless events.

What’s important to recognise is that, while those risks affect all convention centres, they would affect a new Auckland International Convention Centre more than any of its competitors in the rest of the world. This is handsomely illustrated by the fact that, while the number of international conventions worldwide fell 5% between 2008 and 2010, the number in New Zealand fell 40%.

Every year the convention centre doesn’t make the revenue expected, SkyCity will be wanting a handout to keep it going.

But really the crazy thing is this: MED sees SkyCity getting subsidies for hosting conventions too.

Say a few international convention centre organisers are batshit crazy enough to fly 3,500 people to the most isolated country on Earth when there are perfectly good, cheaper alternatives, to a city that doesn’t even have a rail link to its airport, or one to the site of the convention centre. Well, then, there’s insidious idea called ‘subvention’. It goes ‘we’ve got this crappy convention centre that sits empty most of the time but when people come from overseas for conventions here they also spend money on accommodation, gambling, food, hookers, and sometimes they do some tourist stuff too, we don’t provide all those services in our business, but we want the profits’. Or, in MED’s language, ‘subvention (incentive) policies recognise the economic value of conferences to host destinations.’

So, SkyCity would continually have its hand out for more public money as kickbacks.

Subvention works because the convention owner can always threaten to close up, leaving the government with massive empty halls and a whole lot of unneeded associated public infrastructure in the middle of a major city and deny the government some revenue from tourism. The convention centre owners internalise the wider economic benefits of convention centres into their own profits by holding a gun to the government’s head.

It’s interesting to reflect at this juncture on where the term ‘white elephant’ comes from. In Thailand and Burma, white elephants were considered possessions that brought great prestige to their owner (it’s all to do with Buddha). Of course, elephants eat a lot, which is expensive and prestige-bearing objects would require special care, meaning extra expense. Usually, an elephant paid its way doing heavy labour but it was illegal to make a white elephant work. So, the King would give enemies a white elephant. It denoted prestige, but it weakened them in the way that counted, by being an expensive burden.

Do we need or want to have a huge ‘prestige’ project in Auckland that we will have to continually subsidise because it can’t pay its way? And is it worth selling our gambling law, creating more gambling addicts, and inflicting more crime and social costs on our community to get it?

15 comments on “Re-run: SkyCity’s convention centre would need $10m+ subsidies – MED”

  1. Rogue Trooper 1

    Joker’s Wild (Excellent Article Eddie)

  2. Te Reo Putake 2

    Great article, EDDIE, Subvention is going to be my word of the day. An article just up on the NZH websites confirms that Key was being more than a little optimistic yesterday when he said Skycity and TVNZ had done a deal on land for the convention hall. They haven’t, despite Key’s repeated claims to the contrary.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10866808

  3. excellent article. the aluminium smelter people are trying their own variation on the same scam here and in northern australia(and probably everywhere else). its a variation on the old privatise the profits,socialise the losses trick. right about now you will have some right wingers on here , trying hard to distact people with the old change the subject, cause an argument rort.

  4. vto 4

    More welfare for the corporate sector.

    As a taxpayer I am sick and tired of having my taxes going towards free-lodaing bludging businesses.

    Like farmers.
    Like the NZX.
    Like Mediaworks
    Like finance companies

    Bloody bludgers

    • Draco T Bastard 4.1

      +1

      Biggest bludgers around are the rich and they’re the ones that this government is governing for which is why they keep giving the bludgers more of our money.

  5. marsman 5

    Thanks EDDIE. Two days ago on James Henderson’ post about the SkyCity Scam I commented:

    ‘And if the thing does not make enough profit for Sky City the taxpayer gives them a top-up. Nice when you are spending other peoples’ money John Key.’

    That comment was replied to by ‘swan’ with: ‘Link?’

    Hello swan.

  6. Treetop 6

    Key and his government want a convention centre funded by exploiting pokie addicts. This tells me how disconnected the man is when it comes to being a worthy leader.

    HOW DISRESPECTFUL.

  7. Afewknowthetruth 7

    Peak Oil = death knell for tourism. No wonder ‘nobody’ wants to talk about it.

  8. Lanthanide 8

    Mass-market tourism, certainly.

  9. Ed 9

    I must admit to being confused. The MED cost / benefit analysis for the Auckland Council appeared to assume that teh convention centre would be wholly owned and paid for by the Council (or the government). Now there seems to be talk of Sky building the convention centre “free” (but being goven by a law change pokie licenses), but now the assumption seems to be that the centre would then be owned by Sky (possibly with land being purchased of an SOE at mates rates but that’s not clear), with all profits going to Sky. That may still bring tourism benefits to Auckland (subject to assumptions about number of extra visitors) which my have some value, but its not clear whether the projected subsidies are now to be paid by Sky.

    When Key tells us we are getting something free, I’d like to know who is we, who is paying, who benefits and who is worse off.

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  • Spin lines show a department in chaos
    Corrections Spin Doctors sending their place holder lines to journalists instead of responding to serious allegations shows the scale of chaos at the department over the Serco scandal, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “As more and more serious allegations… ...
    1 week ago
  • Court ruling shows law should never have been passed
    A High Court ruling that a law banning prisoners from voting is inconsistent with a properly functioning democracy should be a wake-up call for the Government, Labour’s Justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says. In an unprecedented ruling Justice Paul Heath has… ...
    1 week ago
  • Judicial Review Gamble Pays Off for Problem Gambling Foundation
    Congratulations are due to the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGFNZ) who have won their legal case around how the Ministry of Health decided to award their contracts for problem gambling services to another service provider. Congratulations are due not just for… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Environmental Protection Agency appoints GE advocate as new CEO
    This week, the Environmental Protection Authority Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament. The Bill puts protection of the environment into the core purpose of the Environmental Protection Authority. This month, Dr Allan Freeth, the former Chief Executive of… ...
    GreensBy Steffan Browning MP
    1 week ago
  • Charanpreet Dhaliwal death demands genuine health and safety reform
    The killing of a security guard on his first night on the job is exactly the kind of incident that National’s watered-down health and safety bill won’t prevent, says Te Atatu MP Phil Twyford. The coronial inquest into 22-year-old Charanpreet… ...
    1 week ago
  • Arbitrary sanctions hit children hardest
    Increasing numbers of single parents are being penalised under a regime that is overly focussed on sanctions rather than getting more people into work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Figures, obtained through Parliamentary questions show 3000 more sanctions,… ...
    1 week ago
  • Hekia just won’t face the facts
    Hekia Parata’s decision to keep troubled Whangaruru Charter school open despite being presented with a catalogue of failure defies belief, goes against official advice and breaks a Government promise to close these schools if they were failing, says Labour’s Education… ...
    1 week ago
  • No more silent witnesses
    Yesterday I attended the launch of a new initiative developed by and for Asian, Middle eastern and African youth to support young people to name and get support if there is domestic violence at home. The impact on children of… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Single Use Plastic Bags campaign – Some wins and some green-washing
    As we near the end of Plastic Free July I’m nearing the conclusion of my Say No To Plastic Bag tour when I will have completed all 30 of my public meetings. The campaign was designed to work with community… ...
    GreensBy Denise Roche MP
    1 week ago
  • Minister must take responsibility for problem gambling debacle
    The Government’s handling of the Problem Gambling Foundation’s axing in a cost-cutting exercise has been ham-fisted and harmful to some of the most vulnerable people in society, Associate Health Labour spokesperson David Clark says.“Today’s court ruling overturning the axing of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Labour will not support TPP if it undermines NZ sovereignty
    The Labour Party will not support the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement unless key protections for New Zealanders are met, Opposition leader Andrew Little says.“Labour supports free trade. However, we will not support a TPP agreement that undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty. ...
    1 week ago
  • Coleman can’t ignore latest warnings
    Resident doctors have advised that a severe staffing shortage at North Shore Hospital is putting patients’ lives at risk, Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King says. “They say a mismatch between staffing levels and patient workloads at North Shore has… ...
    1 week ago
  • ACC must remove barriers to appeals
    The Government must prioritise removing barriers to justice for ACC claimants following a damning report by Acclaim Otago, Labour’s ACC spokesperson Sue Moroney says. “ACC Minister Nikki Kaye must urgently scrap her flawed plan to remove claimant’s right to redress… ...
    1 week ago
  • Six months’ paid parental leave back on the agenda
    Six months’ paid parental leave is back on the agenda and a step closer to reality for Kiwi parents after Labour’s new Member’s Bill was pulled from today’s ballot, the Bill’s sponsor and Labour MP Sue Moroney says. “My Bill… ...
    1 week ago
  • Sole parents at risk of having no income
    New requirements for sole parents to undertake a reapplication process after a year is likely to mean a large number will face benefit cancellations, but not because they have obtained work, Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni says. “Increasing numbers… ...
    1 week ago
  • Juking the Welfare Stats Again
    Last week the government’s major initiative to combat child poverty (a paltry $25 increase) was exposed for what it is, a lie. The Government, through the Budget this year, claims to be engaging in the child poverty debate, but instead,… ...
    GreensBy Jan Logie MP
    1 week ago
  • OCR rate cut a result of flagging economy
    The Reserve Bank's decision to cut the Official Cash Rate to 3 per cent shows there is no encore for the so-called 'rock star' economy, says Labour's Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.   "Today's interest rate cut comes off the back… ...
    1 week ago
  • Reboot to an innovation economy, an Internet economy and a clean economy
    In my short 33 years on this planet we’ve seen phenomenal technological, economic and social change, and it’s realistic to expect the next 33 will see even more, even faster change. You can see it in the non-descript warehouse near… ...
    GreensBy Gareth Hughes MP
    1 week ago
  • Bill that puts the environment into the EPA passes first hurdle
    A Bill that puts the environment squarely into legislation governing the Environmental Protection Authority passed its first reading today, says Meka Whaitiri.  “I introduced this member’s bill as the current law doesn’t actually make protecting the environment a goal of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Key’s KiwiSaver deception exposed
    KiwiSaver statistics released today expose John Key's claim that the cutting of the kickstart payment "will not make a blind bit of difference to the number of people who join KiwiSaver” to be duplicitous, says Labour Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson.  “Official… ...
    1 week ago
  • Minimum Wage Amendment Bill to protect contractors
    All New Zealanders should be treated fairly at work. Currently, the law allows non-employment relationships to be used to get around the minimum wage. This is unfair, says Labour MP David Parker. “The Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill, a… ...
    1 week ago
  • Bill raises bar to protect Kiwi farmland
    The Government’s rubber-stamping of every one of the nearly 400 applications from overseas investors to buy New Zealand farm land over the last three years proves tougher laws are needed, Labour MP Phil Goff says. “In the last term of… ...
    1 week ago
  • Costly flag referendum should be dumped
    John Key must ditch the flag referendum before any more taxpayer money is wasted, Opposition Leader Andrew Little says. “Millions of dollars could be saved if the Prime Minister called a halt to this hugely expensive, and highly unpopular, vanity… ...
    1 week ago
  • Nats letting Serco off scot free
    Government members have prevented Parliament’s Law and Order select committee from getting answers out of a senior Serco director about the fight clubs being run at Mt Eden prisons, says Labour’s Corrections Spokesperson Kelvin Davis. “At today’s Law and Order… ...
    1 week ago
  • Charter school experiment turns into shambles
    The National Government’s charter school experiment has descended into chaos and it’s time for Hekia Parata to stop trying to cover up the full extent of the problems, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says. “The Education Minister must release all… ...
    1 week ago

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