Labour, Greens slam SkyCity deal

By Kate Shuttleworth

CEO of SkyCity Nigel Morrison. Photo / Greg Bowker
CEO of SkyCity Nigel Morrison. Photo / Greg Bowker

Labour and the Greens have slammed a deal announced for a new convention centre in Auckland today, saying the Government has handed SkyCity a licence to print money.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce announced today that SkyCity will pay $402 million for the new centre.

Under the deal, expected to generate $90 million in revenue each year, SkyCity will be allowed to have 230 extra pokie machines, with an exclusive licence extended until 2048.

Labour leader David Shearer said SkyCity had "hit the jackpot" and called it the "Mother-of-all-deals".

"A 35-year licence to print money off the backs of problem gamblers - that is reckless, outrageous that Government hands in the future will be tied to this deal."

Shearer said governments should be able to make changes to legislation but he would not make a commitment to stopping the deal, saying he would look at the fine print.

"To guarantee 35 years out that this legislation is to be set in stone for that length of time is wrong."
A KordaMentha report on the deal shows that in the event regulatory concessions are changed by the Crown before the deal ends in 2048, compensation will be paid to SkyCity.

Its assessment of the value of license renewal is between $65 million and $115 million.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei said the deal was "disastrous" but she had not yet sought legal advice on the implications of rejecting the deal.

She said it could become a bottom line in future coalition discussions between the Greens and Labour and the Greens would want the legislation repealed.

"Whether we can negotiation that with them in the future - we will see. The Green Party does not accept being held to ransom like this and will repeal this legislation if we get into Government," she said.

"One of the worst aspects of this deal is the attempt by John Key and the National Government to hold future governments to ransom - to lock future Governments out of making public policy regulation to benefit or protect New Zealanders who are suffering from problem gambling caused by the casino.

"We consider this to be unconstitutional and it is a breach of Parliamentary sovereignty to lock a government into a commercial deal for 35 years."

- APNZ

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