A resource consent applications for SkyCity's new convention centre will proceed without the public having a say.
The decision to proceed on a non-notified basis was made by independent commissioners David Hill, Rebecca Skidmore and Kitt Littlejohn.
The three commissioners will decide whether to approve the application in the coming months.
The commissioners considered the environmental effects of the application, as well as the recent decision about the Ports of Auckland Ltd resource consent application, in coming to their conclusion on notification.
The new design, released in May, revealed a smaller convention centre, which will require SkyCity to increase its spend from the $402 million agreed in 2013 to $430 million. The casino company said it might end up spending $450 million-$470 million after earlier saying it might need public money to build a centre for $530 million.
The application, before Auckland Council, is to establish a convention centre as well as an underground carpark with 1415 spaces, a 30-bed hotel, a pedestrian overpass over Hobson St and upgrading the streetscapes on Hobson and Nelson Sts.
The commissioners took into account the recent ruling by Justice Geoffrey Venning in the controversial case of two wharf extensions at Ports of Auckland where the judge said "special circumstances" existed which required public notification.
The commissioners said they did not consider there were any "special circumstances" warranting notification of the convention centre application.
"We are aware that the funding agreements in place between the Government and application have been the subject of public and media interest in recent times, particularly as this relates to the partial public funding of the proposed convention centre.
"However, these are matters of governance and public expenditure that have little, if anything, to do with the environmental effects of a relatively straightforward building project for a public facility in the heart of Auckland," the commissioners said.
The independent commissioners' decision not to give the public a say is at odds with a recommendation from the council's lead senior resource consent planner Jennifer Valentine.
In a report to the commissioners, Ms Valentine gave 16 reasons why the adverse effects on the environment will or are likely to be more than minor, and why the public should have a say.
Her reasons included construction effects, increased traffic movements, excess parking, substantial demolition of the historic scheduled Berlei Factory and the bulk and visual qualities of the convention centre.
NZICC Planner's Report: (app users click here)
READ MORE: See the full document here
In a statement, SkyCity chief executive Nigel Morrison said the decision is good news for the project and allows the company to move ahead with selecting a construction partner and finalising a date for turning the first sod on the landmark building.
"We now await the final resource consent decision, to be finalised by the independent commissioners over the next few months," Mr Morrison said
"We are continuing to work towards signing a binding building works contract for the NZICC by October and then commencing construction by the end of 2015."
The 33,000 sqm convention centre will be capable of hosting meetings of up to 3,150 people, two concurrent events of 1,200 delegates each, and one-off events of up to 4,200 people. The NZICC will be the largest purpose-built convention centre in the country.
SkyCity also plans to construct a new laneway that will provide Aucklanders and visitors with a new public space, featuring shops, cafes, bars and quality signature restaurants like those on nearby Federal Street, he said.
SkyCity is currently progressing the preliminary design of the hotel and, as previously indicated, is exploring options with external investors for the development and future ownership of the hotel.
"We're pleased that momentum is continuing to build on the NZICC project, bringing jobs, growth, and much-needed economic investment in downtown Auckland," Mr Morrison said.
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"It's another positive step forward in the development of a world class international convention centre for Auckland and New Zealand," he said.
"The Government looks forward to the completion of the consent process so that construction can get underway along with the 1000 construction jobs that will come with it.
"Left-wing politicians just want to have another go-round on how much they don't like the convention centre. Once again they are showing they are against a project that brings growth and jobs to Auckland and New Zealand."
Green Party expresses disappointment
The Green Party said it was extremely disappointing that Aucklanders are being shut out of the resource consent decision-making process for the convention centre.
Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said: "The SkyCity convention centre is one of the most significant developments in Auckland this decade and a hugely politically contentious building. It's extremely disappointing that the public won't get a say in the non-notified consent process,"
"John Key stitched the SkyCity deal up over dinner thinking only about his own interests and those of SkyCity, with no regard to what Aucklanders actually want or don't want in their city.
"It's doubly concerning that the planner's report into the convention centre recommends public notification and consultation because of impacts on traffic and built heritage, but this consultation won't happen.
"Aucklanders deserve to have their voices heard on the effects of the 33,000sqm onvention centre and 300 room hotel, which will change their city in many significant ways.
"Increased traffic, demolition of heritage buildings, and major changes to the built environment are issues that all justify public input from Aucklanders.
"The whole SkyCity convention centre process will go down in history as probably the shadiest ever conducted in New Zealand, with dodgy deals and backroom gambles behind closed doors trumping the public interest at every turn," Ms Turei said.
She said the idea that there aren't any 'special circumstances' surrounding the SkyCity convention centre that would warrant public input is just ridiculous, when it's probably the biggest development in central Auckland this decade.
"Serious questions need to be asked about whether the system is working when it allows such major developments as the SkyCity convention centre to go ahead without public input.
"Auckland Council wanted the consent process notified so all Aucklanders could have their say, but a panel of commissioners has ruled that the consent will be decided behind closed doors," said Mrs Turei.
Mixed reactions to decision
Auckland councillor Chris Darby is shocked the public will have no say on SkyCity Entertainment Group's NZ International Convention Centre but legal expert Russell Bartlett is glad consent will be processed on a non-notified basis.
Darby was stunned, but Bartlett, an RMA specialist lawyer of Shortland St, said the decision was good for Auckland.
Darby said such a big new structure should have triggered public consultation.
"How it fails to be subject to public testing is beyond me. The application requires some 40 consents triggered by three operative plans and is overall a non-complying application. This is a colossal proposal stretching over a vast land area of a whole city block and public road. It involves the demolition of a scheduled building and privatisation of public airspace over Hobson St," Darby said.
But Bartlett dismissed the size factor, saying that was not an aspect which would automatically trigger notification.
"This is the central city and there are liberal planning controls. Development is anticipated, so they're not doing anything beyond what is considered appropriate for the central area," Bartlett said.
Darby said the NZICC would be enormous and its effects would go well beyond the site.
"It is without doubt the single largest development to impact the city-centre's urban form that we are likely to see in a long time," Darby said of the almost 1ha of buildings, plus the new 300-room 12-level hotel.
"The proposal will in time reshape future development in the west sector of the city-centre as following development takes cues from this massive anchor," Darby said.
SkyCity should not have sought non-notification in the first place, Darby said.
"The applicant could have acknowledged Auckland's interest and volunteered notification," Darby said, referring to other examples of that including the Michael Parekowhai application by Auckland Council and Yachting New Zealand's facility at Takapuna Beach.
"But it has chosen expediency over excellence. This is another shortcut to failure," Darby said.
Bartlett said SkyCity had gone about things in an entirely logical, thorough manner.
"They got consents of the affected parties and just because something is large-scale doesn't meant it should be notified. They have targeted the affected parties. I don't find this surprising at all," Bartlett said.
Commissioners David Hill, Rebecca Skidmore and Kitt Littlejohn were "very experienced", he said.
"To me, it's reassuring that you can actually do something in Auckland without being held up. It's a good sign if an applicant goes about it carefully which they have done," Bartlett said.
The proposed International Convention Centre will be 38,000sq m on four levels.
It will include:
• Exhibition space: 8600sq m of exhibition space for 3500 people in three halls.
• Theatre: To seat 3000 people for presentations or stripped out for large banquets and other events.
• Gallery: A series of bridges connecting people to meeting rooms and theatres across the levels.
• Meeting rooms: 3000sq m of meeting rooms and breakout spaces. Walls can be moved to adjust the size of the areas.
• Sunset Room: To accommodate up to 1000 people for dinner or cocktails. It will look across the upper harbour and Waitakere Ranges.