Events centre set to cost ratepayers millions

Claudelands Event Centre. Photo / Christine Cornege
Claudelands Event Centre. Photo / Christine Cornege

Financial shortfalls at the new Claudelands Events Centre in Hamilton threaten to make the city's $40 million V8 fiasco look like a bargain, say critics.

Public outrage at the V8 blowout could be repeated over events-centre costs which could amount to $10 million a year.

Net revenue for the current year totals $1.8 million with an operating expenditure of $3.22 million - giving an operating deficit of $1.42 million.

Information requested by Hamilton Citizens and Ratepayer Association president John Easto reveals annual base costs termed asset-related charges total $8.225 million. That covers interest ($4.48 million), depreciation ($3.1 million) and maintenance ($639,000).

Mr Easto, who says costs of the centre have not been finalised because of issues with air conditioning, roofing and carparks, calls it "an embarrassing white elephant".

"If the economic climate remains the same, the outlook for Claudelands is grim. In five years it could do more damage to Hamilton City's finances than the V8 racing.

"First we had the Waikato Stadium, built on debt and costing more than $3 million a year to keep the doors open; then we had the V8s and now we have the tragedy of a $72 million facility losing money hand over fist.

"It all adds up to more financial heartache for Hamilton ratepayers."

Mr Easto says ratepayers are stuck with the facilities. "It's not like a hotel which you can sell. Who would buy into these losses?"

City councillor Roger Hennebry, who voted against building the centre, is disappointed the council has cut community spending to save $15 million and will now see most of the savings go in covering a debt.

"The council will have to find ways to turn the situation around or we could be looking at a $200 million loss in the next 20 years.

"Claudelands' financial plan never stacked up, and now we are facing the hard truth."

Councillor Ewan Wilson, who was not on the council when the centre was planned, says no one is coming up smelling of roses over the issue. "Reports show figures used to justify the centre were inaccurate and inflated."

He says the council's task is to overcome the significant loss.

"We can't undo it. We must assume the mantle of making it work to lessen the burden faced by ratepayers facing ongoing charges."

- NZ Herald

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