Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Uncertainty clouds SkyCity's $350m plan

Sky City's plan for a convention centre in Auckland remains uncertain. Photo / Dean Purcell
Sky City's plan for a convention centre in Auckland remains uncertain. Photo / Dean Purcell

SkyCity's plan for a $350 million national convention centre in Auckland remains uncertain despite initial government approval six months ago, and negotiations are shrouded in "commercial sensitivity".

Last June, Prime Minister John Key announced the casino company had won over four competing proposals for a 3500-capacity national convention centre in downtown Auckland.

Under SkyCity's proposal, it would meet the full $350 million cost of construction but in return it wanted alterations to gambling laws.

At the time, Economic Development Minister David Carter said the Government had begun negotiations with SkyCity in the "broad areas" of extending its licence beyond its current 2021 expiry, and also proposals to increase the number of gaming tables and machines at SkyCity's Auckland casino.

But six months after those negotiations began, the Herald understands there is now uncertainty whether the project will go ahead.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Economic Development said: "These negotiations are continuing and are commercially sensitive."

Likewise, SkyCity general counsel Peter Tracy said the talks were "ongoing and commercially sensitive".

"They're going okay. We're still actively engaged with the [ministry] and just working through the issues," he said.

"This is quite a complicated deal in the sense that it's building a very large convention centre in exchange for certain reforms."

New Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce told the Herald he believed, "on the balance of probabilities", that the project would go ahead.

Negotiations were "stepping up a little bit pace-wise at the beginning of this year".

Mark Frankham, chief executive of ASB Showgrounds, whose proposal for a $225 million convention centre at Cornwall Park lost out to SkyCity, said his company remained interested if the SkyCity project fell over.

- NZ Herald

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