The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Cup loss a blow for boatbuilders: industry boss

Team Oracle USA may have won, but much of its boat was designed and built in New Zealand. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Team Oracle USA may have won, but much of its boat was designed and built in New Zealand. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Emirates Team New Zealand's defeat at the hands of Oracle is a blow for this country's boatbuilding businesses and Government backing for a future America's Cup challenge will be crucial for the local marine sector, says an industry group boss.

The NZ Marine Industry Association had set a goal of doubling exports of marine technology and equipment to $1.3 billion by 2020.

But reaching that target was dependent on the cup's return to Auckland, which was expected to provide a boost for an industry that has been badly affected by the strong kiwi and global economic downturn.

Peter Busfield, the association's executive director, said Team New Zealand's loss would make achieving that goal a lot more difficult.

"We've lost a huge opportunity," he said. "Bringing back [the cup] would have been the second-best thing to holding an Olympic Games in New Zealand."

Speaking from the Auckland on the Water Boat Show yesterday, Busfield said the business case for Government support of another New Zealand cup challenge was "outstanding" in terms of the benefit it would provide for the industry.

The Government copped flack in 2011 for awarding $36 million towards Emirates Team New Zealand's 2013 America's Cup challenge.

The contribution was part of an agreement signed by the Labour Government in 2007.

Defending the state-funded cash injection in 2011, Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton said the syndicate was the "arrowhead" of this country's marine industry.

"When we do well the industry does well," Dalton said.

The Government hasn't yet committed to funding another campaign.

While it remains unclear when and where the next America's Cup will take place, Busfield said he was hopeful that overseas syndicates would continue to have their boats built in this country.

As well as Team New Zealand, Oracle and Italy's Luna Rossa had some or all of their craft built here. The wingsail and foils for Oracle's winning catamaran were built by it's Warkworth based company Core Builders Composites. The construction of the three syndicates' boats in New Zealand would have resulted in around $50 million in tax revenue for the Government, Busfield said.

Ian Taylor, whose company Animation Research has provided 3D graphics for the America's Cup since the early 1990s, told Radio NZ the focus needed to shift away from losing the hosting rights towards the opportunity presented by developing Kiwi marine technology for the event - wherever it takes place.

And it was crucial that New Zealand had an entry in the next America's Cup, Taylor added, otherwise other countries might claim Kiwi-developed technology as their own.

"There's a huge upside to that ... New Zealand flag being up there," he said.

Salthouse Next Generation Boats founder Dean Salthouse said it was disappointing the America's Cup wouldn't be returning to New Zealand. But he said business was looking up for his firm, which builds luxury launches.

Silverdale-based Next Generation had received $20 million worth of inquiries from potential Australian customers since the change of Government across the Tasman, Salthouse said.

Busfield said the atmosphere at the boat show had been pretty sombre on Thursday, but the mood had improved by yesterday.

"The music is up and people have smiles on their faces - [the Cup loss] hasn't deterred people from looking at how they're going to go boating themselves."

- NZ Herald

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