John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

TVNZ studios in the path of SkyCity centre

The circled building in SkyCity's plans for a convention centre is on TVNZ land. Photo / Supplied
The circled building in SkyCity's plans for a convention centre is on TVNZ land. Photo / Supplied

Television New Zealand has been shut out of Government negotiations that would demolish the state broadcaster's "creative hub" to make room for SkyCity's national convention centre.

TVNZ owns 85-93 Hobson St which includes the studios where the programme Good Morning moved to this year. Its Maori and Pacific unit and Freeview are also based at the site, which is next to its network centre headquarters on Victoria St.

The site is incorporated in artists' impressions for the $350 million convention centre, which will have overhead skyways above Hobson St linking the centre to the casino.

The combined 3084sq m site is home to about 150 staff but so far there has been no sign whether they will need to move.

The proposal, backed by the Auckland Council, would provide the Government with a low cost way to build a convention centre, which Prime Minister John Key said this week would boost tourism and jobs.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce is negotiating the convention centre deal with SkyCity.

A spokesman for Joyce said: "The initial draft concept plans for the proposed convention centre that were made public in June 2011 incorporated three sites in Hobson St that belong to TVNZ.

"There have been no approaches to TVNZ about purchasing that land since June 2011 because negotiations on the proposed convention centre are continuing, including on the design and size of the building.

"If following the negotiations the TVNZ sites are needed, then SkyCity would seek to purchase the land from TVNZ in the normal commercial manner."

It is understood TVNZ learned SkyCity had included its land in its proposal for a convention centre only after artists' impressions were published in the media. Neither management, nor the TVNZ board have been approached by shareholding ministers Craig Foss and Bill English.

The negotiations have revived concerns about the Government offering regulatory changes in return for investment and the lack of transparency in its dealmaking and intervention into commercial markets.

A television industry source said the loss of the Hobson St site would cause major costs for rehousing production facilities.

It is understood the property at 93 Hobson St would be for sale if TVNZ was formally approached, but not 85-91.

SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison refused all comment on the convention centre proposals while negotiations were being held with the Government.

TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards yesterday confirmed that it had noted the inclusion of the TVNZ land in the SkyCity proposal, and that there had been no discussions for a long time between SkyCity and TVNZ.

A television industry source said the state broadcaster had raised the issue with SkyCity, but the casino company had not addressed how it came to the conclusion it had access to the land.

Government intervention into commercial markets first came to public attention with the largely opaque deal with Warner Bros studios to secure production for Sir Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, with John Key negotiating industrial law change and a $20 million sweetener, on top of the $100 million subsidy.

Last year it was revealed the Government had extended a loan so that several radio stations could pay off their payment to the Crown for radio frequencies.

- NZ Herald

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