Former MP and now Northland Regional Councillor Dover Samuels reckons he has the answer to the $130 million cost blow-out which has thrown plans for Auckland's convention centre into disarray - build it in Northland instead.

Casino operator Sky City struck a deal with the Government to build the $400m New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC) in exchange for a law change allowing it more pokie machines and gaming tables.

However, the cost has now blown out to as much as $530m, prompting Sky City bosses to call on the Government to pay the difference.

After initially refusing to rule it out, in a U-turn last week Prime Minister John Key said taxpayers would not have to cover the shortfall.

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That still leaves the convention centre in a financial hole. Either Sky City has to stump up more money or the centre will be redesigned to make it cheaper.

Mr Samuels' solution is to abandon the costly Auckland plan and build the convention centre in the Bay of Islands instead. The money saved, due to the lower cost of land, would mean there was no need to hit up struggling taxpayers for funding or compromise on design.

Between iwi and the regional council, he believed suitable land could be found in exchange for a commitment to building the centre in Northland and creating jobs for locals.

Mr Samuels said he floated the idea at this month's regional council iwi advisory committee meeting. He also planned to speak to fellow councillors and economic development group Northland Inc.

"If there's stumbling blocks in Auckland, how about considering the Bay of Islands? I think we can offer a better deal," he said. "In any case, Auckland's economy and housing market is over-heated. How about sharing?"

Mr Samuels' idea would face a number of stumbling blocks of its own. Sky City is unlikely to want to build the convention centre anywhere but next to its main money-spinner, the Auckland casino. And if a Bay convention centre were to include a casino, it would run into difficulty with the Gambling Act 2003 which prohibits any new casino venue licences. That means a law change would be necessary.

If it had pokie machines it would also run up against the Far North District Council's "sinking lid" policy which forbids new gaming venues or machines.

NRC deputy chairman Graeme Ramsey - who is also the chief executive of the Problem Gambling Foundation - said Northland needed jobs and economic development but he questioned the practicality of building a major convention centre.

NRC deputy chairman Graeme Ramsey - who is also the chief executive of the Problem Gambling Foundation - said Northland needed jobs and economic development but he questioned the practicality of building a major convention centre.

"We have a very attractive region and if we want to attract overseas people, who then stay on for a holiday, Northland is a fantastic advertisement for New Zealand. However, the practicalities of transport infrastructure and hotels probably mean you have no choice but to build it in a major centre," he said.

If a Northland convention centre were to come with a casino, the Problem Gambling Foundation would be strongly opposed.

"Casinos are the high-risk end of gambling. We'd be very uncomfortable with a casino in Northland. There's often a high social cost and it's borne by the poorest part of society," Mr Ramsey said.

According to a Government fact sheet, the New Zealand International Convention Centre as currently planned would attract 33,000 delegates a year, boost overseas visitor spending by $90m a year and employ 800 people.

The group behind the New Zealand International Convention Centre did not return calls.