Team NZ cash pledge on Cup upsets councillor

By Sam Hurleysam hurley@hbtoday co nz

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HBT093743-17.JPG Henare O'Keefe, Hastings District councillor - pictured at the launch of Flaxmere U-Turn Trust, and its Flaxmere Heroes calendar, at Te Aranga Marae, Flaxmere, Hastings.
HBT093743-17.JPG Henare O'Keefe, Hastings District councillor - pictured at the launch of Flaxmere U-Turn Trust, and its Flaxmere Heroes calendar, at Te Aranga Marae, Flaxmere, Hastings.

Hastings district councillor Henare O'Keefe has criticised the Government's pledge to support Team NZ in its next America's Cup challenge, saying the money should go to community projects.

"I'm just as patriotic as the next person, possibly even more so. But the announcement that the Government will throw another few million dollars at another America's Cup campaign just staggers me," Mr O'Keefe said.

Yesterday in Auckland, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce welcomed the Team NZ crew home and pledged government support for the next challenge.

"While you didn't achieve everything you set out to, you did win the hearts of this nation," he said to the thousands of fans on the Auckland waterfront.

Mr Joyce said he had a "special message" for the crew and fans. "This country and this Government stands ready to be part of the next America's Cup challenge."

Mr O'Keefe said the millions of taxpayer dollars dedicated to Team NZ should be going to communities that need developing, such as Flaxmere.

He said he was "bitterly disappointed" in the Government's leadership decisions. "Why don't you come to Flaxmere and make the same announcement you've just made at the Viaduct? You are there to serve the people, never ever forget that. We may well be victims of our past, but we will never ever be prisoners of it.

"Here in Flaxmere we have literally been begging Government for a hand up regarding our housing project. A project that will save us, the taxpayer, millions, not to mention heartache, inconvenience and more victims."

He said he had been told by Government "time and time again ... be patient". "How much patience was demanded of Team NZ? I have no angst whatsoever towards the Dean Barkers and Grant Daltons of this world, but alas rich boys and their toys versus the poor and impoverished is a mismatch.

"Guess what, Flaxmere's spinnaker has been hoisted aloft despite the currents running against us. We have been travelling into a headwind of tsunami proportions. Despite that our spirit is still intact. Flaxmere is an opportunity, it is not a liability.

"Tell me, Government, how do you justify to the Flaxmeres of this world the spending on the America' Cup campaign? Explain to it to the hungry, the abused, the needy, the homeless, the poor without an advocate."

Tukituki National MP Craig Foss said while Mr Joyce had made an announcement to support Team NZ yesterday an "announcement has not been made on the exact dollar amount".

He said in response to Mr O'Keefe that it was not about sacrificing one New Zealand community benefit for another. "We are already putting money into housing and all sorts of assistance in the societies that need it.

"The funds that go into Team NZ help with the New Zealand innovation story around the world.

"Even though the syndicate wasn't in New Zealand it was a massive success and created interest about New Zealand around the world.

"When you look at things like this in isolation it easy to say those things. But I am very comfortable with making sure we can tell our New Zealand success story around the world."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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