David Fisher

David Fisher is a senior reporter for the NZ Herald.

Convention centre probe may criticise PM

Prime Minister John Key. Photo / APN
Prime Minister John Key. Photo / APN

Early draft copies of the inquiry into the SkyCity convention centre deal have gone to Prime Minister John Key and the casino, prompting speculation they are in for criticism.

There have also been questions about the visibility the outcome of the inquiry will have if it is released just before Christmas, as promised by the Office of the Auditor-General.

The inquiry was launched after a complaint from Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei over the way SkyCity was chosen to build the proposed international convention centre.

It was also intended to report on the costs and benefits of each proposal.

The deal came after Mr Key dined with the board of the casino and suggested they should pitch for the contract to build the convention centre. When SkyCity did, its bid won after it offered to pay the $350 million construction bill in return for gambling concessions which included the ability to have hundreds more pokies.

Ms Turei said draft copies were provided for "natural justice" reasons.

"I understand if there is a comment about a person - particularly an adverse comment about a person - they need to have an opportunity to respond."

She said she was concerned that comments by the Office of the Auditor-General that the report would be released this year meant it would come out in the festive season.

"It doesn't give the public the chance to consider the issue."

A spokeswoman for the Auditor-General said the office was aware of the "significant interest" in the report and hoped to publish before the end of the year.

The spokeswoman said the report's terms of reference stated "we consult as necessary on its contents to ensure that it is factually accurate and that the rights of any affected parties are properly protected".

The draft report comes eight months after the original complaint and six months after the inquiry was launched. The Auditor-General's guidelines give three-month time frames for most inquiries and six months for those which are "larger and more complex".

Mr Key's office said a draft had been received earlier this week. "We have not provided any feedback as yet and nor have we spoken to SkyCity."

- NZ Herald

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