Blowouts push public Rugby World Cup spending well over $200m

By Michael Dickison, Lauren Priestley

John Key. Photo / Supplied
John Key. Photo / Supplied

Budget blowouts have pushed public spending on the Rugby World Cup well above $200 million - without counting $555 million in stadium upgrades and $39 million in direct losses from hosting the tournament.

But the economic returns are also starting to arrive, including an extra $4.4 million in tourist spending on Paymark eftpos systems during the tournament's penultimate weekend.

This week Prime Minister John Key defended the country's investment in the World Cup, saying it was "$39 million well spent".

"Yes, the country has spent quite a bit of money upgrading its stadia, but they're long-term assets and I think for the marketing of New Zealand, the promotion of New Zealand, it's been well and truly worth it," he said.

Public expenses Mr Key did not cite include advertising, promotional events, match-day entertainment, volunteer co-ordination, signage, extra staff, improvements to urban facilities, VIP hosting and fan zones.

The bills add up to $220 million, at least $7.8 million more than budgeted six months ago - with much accounting left to be done.

Most of the blowout is on the Auckland waterfront, where $5.5 million more was spent after its fan zone failed to cope with opening-night crowds.

Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Maori Development, said it had invested in several events additional to its $2.7 million budget - but details and costs were unavailable yesterday.

In Wellington, the latest council budget has exceeded the figure given to the Herald six months ago by almost $1.5 million. A spokesman said the major substantial difference was about $200,000 being spent to keep the capital's fan zone open for the final two weeks of the tournament.

Other councils are reporting smaller cost rises, though their exact amounts have yet to be compiled.

"I'm pretty sure the budget figure you got [six months ago] has no staff time, no facility charges, no lost revenue, et cetera," said Napier City Council chief executive Neil Taylor. "I'm trying to get ... a full statement of the total costs including staff ... I had 11 staff in little old Napier working on ambush marketing of all things."

The tournament organisers have their own running costs of just over $300 million, including $150 million in tournament fees paid to the International Rugby Board.

Most of their expenses are being recouped through ticket sales, with an expected deficit of $39 million, two-thirds of which taxpayers will cover.

The country as a whole has made many further investments to prepare for the tournament, but Paymark head of sales and marketing Paul Whiston said the direct returns were being seen in electronic payment statistics.

Foreign credit-card spending in the tournament period so far had exceeded last year's total by $57.8 million, including $4.4 million during the semifinals weekend, Mr Whiston said.

"Let's hope that after the final game has been played, our overseas guests opt to stay on and venture outside the main metropolitan centres," he said.

The credit card spending does not capture cash payments and pre-booked flights and accommodation.

'We'll hit revenue target'

Rugby World Cup organisers are still confident of hitting their revenue target as they prepare to release 900 fresh finals tickets at noon today.

The tournament is within $1 million of hitting its target of $268.5 million in revenue with five days to go.

Australia play Wales in their bronze final match on Friday, for which about 10,000 tickets remain.

On Sunday, the All Blacks face France to decide the winner of rugby's ultimate prize.

Tickets to the match are currently exhausted, but at midday organisers will release tickets made available after finalising allocations to teams and their unions. About 900 tickets will be sold to the public in categories A, B and C - priced between $767 and $1278.

"This is the last chance for fans to be part of the biggest rugby match in New Zealand's history," said marketing boss Shane Harmon.

"The atmosphere on Sunday night will be unlike anything seen before in New Zealand and this is the final opportunity for fans to be able to say 'I was there'."

The remaining bronze final tickets cost between $194 and $358.

- Michael Dickison

- NZ Herald

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