The procurement process for the Auckland centre was a farce and as close to corruption as we ever see in New Zealand.
As reported by the Deputy Auditor-General, Mr Eagleson – whose best friend and Las Vegas gambling buddy is Mark Unsworth, SkyCity’s Wellington lobbyist – had been conducting private talks with SkyCity through 2009 and early 2010, including about what regulatory relief SkyCity wanted.
Mr Eagleson argued a procurement process was unnecessary and that the government should just go with SkyCity on the grounds no one else could realistically compete.
Unmentioned: Sky’s past donations to the National party. Which may well have continued in secret – National raised the donation disclosure threshold by 50% to further shield big donors (and the influence they were buying) from public scrutiny.
If this sort of procurement process happened overseas – in Australia, say – we would have no qualms calling it corrupt. We should apply the same standard in New Zealand. As for the remedy, the deal should be cancelled and Sky City stripped of the gambling concessions National obligingly passed and the land it sold them under false pretences. After which, if we think a convention centre is worth having (rather than a game better won by not playing), it can be re-tendered on a level playing field so the public can actually get value for money, rather than a corrupt stitch-up which benefits National’s mates. Sadly, as Key has invested his political capital (and who knows how much of his private fortune) in this deal, I think the chances of that happening are approximately nil.