Government estimates of economic benefits queried by some.

It will inject up to $1 billion into the economy; thousands of jobs will be created; it will revitalise Auckland's dilapidated downtown wharves and bring fleets of superyachts in need of multimillion-dollar repairs.

Or so has been widely reported in the frantic last few weeks of negotiations and protestations about where and how to host the 2021 America's Cup in Auckland, but some have questioned these expectations.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) yesterday released a glowing report about the economic benefits of hosting the regatta, concluding that every $1 invested would come back more than seven-fold by 2055.

Between $600 million and $1 billion would be injected New Zealand's economy between 2018 and 2021 - far outweighing the $200-odd-million it will cost to host the event, according to the report.


This estimate is far greater than the economic rewards of previous Cups held in the city, which returned an estimated $495m in 2000 and $529m in 2003, according to Auckland Council data.

In its report, MBIE further estimated that hosting the America's Cup would create between 4700 and 8300 jobs.

"These positive economic impacts are important and significant. But it is necessary to view these impacts in the wider context of the infrastructure costs and the additional costs to businesses to deliver the goods and services."

Sectors to reap the rewards included services, manufacturing (mainly around boat building and superyacht refits), tourism, hospitality and accommodation. The report estimated a cost-benefit ratio ranging from 1.2 to 1.8.

"The America's Cup is an iconic event in New Zealand's sporting history," the report said,

"Successive governments have seen the benefits that flow from investing in both the event itself [when held in New Zealand] and from investing in Team New Zealand ... even when the event is not going to be held in New Zealand. The flow-on effects for New Zealand's marine industry and 'Brand New Zealand' are significant."

The report concluded that even over the short term, between 2018-2021, hosting the Cup would pay for itself.

"In other words, if government were making an investment decision simply based on the activity generated to the end of the America's Cup regattas, the benefits outweigh the costs," it says


MBIE had to rely on assumptions primarily informed by the last Cup hosted in Auckland in 2003 to reach its estimates. It examined the spends of the primary "expenditure groups", notably the yachting syndicates themselves, superyachts, other visiting boats, international visitors and media.

The NZ Marine Industry Association has also released some stunning statistics about what the Cup will bring. It said some 160 superyachts could be expected to grace the Waitemata Harbour, spending on average $2.7m each with a total spend of $436m.

At the same time, the association said international yachting syndicates would set up shop in New Zealand from as early as 2019, providing a massive boost to the country's marine industry, with flow-on effects to other sectors and regions outside of Auckland.

However, there is scepticism about whether the numbers really add up and if it's really possible to quantify the benefits of such an event.

As independent economist Shamubeel Eaqub pointed out, the $200m to be spent is money Auckland Council or the Government could be spending somewhere else.

"The thing with these kind of events is there might be a lot of activity that relates to the America's Cup but it doesn't necessarily mean it's extra," he said.

"It just means it's displaced some other kind of activity. That's why you have to be really careful with this economic impact stuff because what they'll do is look at these very specific aspects ... but not at where the money is coming from or whether or not it displaces other activities."

America’s Cup racing's new era: The AC75 class of boat to be sailed in the 36th America’s Cup is released. / Supplied by Emirates Team New Zealand

Furthermore, while visitor numbers tended to shoot up during such events, there was a notable decline in the months preceding and following them, Eaqub said.

Equally, the domestic money that was spent during the event wasn't "new money" - it was money that would have been spent anyway.

"Of course there are going to be economic benefits but you just have to be really mindful that not everything that's related to this event is going to be new."

While there was no doubt the Cup would be fantastic for the marine industry, that did not mean it was hugely beneficial to the economy as a whole.

"When you go back to the economic data ... after we had the last America's Cup you can't tell that anything happened because it's such a small part of an economy that's so massive."

Therefore, Eaqub said, rather than overstating the economic benefits the Cup would bring the focus should be on having an enjoyable, memorable event for New Zealanders and overseas visitors.

It was also a fantastic way of getting stuff done.

"It really helps to get the city organised. You'll recall before the Rugby World Cup we got big infrastructure projects done on time, beautification of the city was done on time and things like that.

"So there is a finish mark - something to aim for - that concentrates people's minds and efforts and we all get the benefit of that."

Michael Goldwater, of Stop Stealing Our Harbour (SSOH), which is vehemently opposed to any further expansion of Auckland's wharves into the harbour, said MBIE's report did not take into account the harbour amenity that would be "confiscated" for generations to come.

"Economic Impact Assessments - a GDP based assessment methodology - has been discredited by both Treasury and the Ministry for Business and Innovation, and should not be used for decision-making purposes," he said.

"SSOH believe that a proper cost benefit analysis will show any benefit to hosting the America's Cup to be significantly less than what has been touted in the media."

Furthermore, it was "undemocratic" of MBIE to release its the 59-page report just two days before a vital Auckland Council meeting in which councillors are expected to vote on their preferred option for the Cup base.

"You're asking a council entity to use something like $200m of public money on almost zero information and the information that has been released ... is not accurate," he said.

Goldwater reiterated that his organisation completely supported holding the Cup in Auckland but said it should be based on existing land-based waterfront sites, creating an exciting "village" atmosphere around North Wharf and Wynyard Quarter.

Coast not only factor in picking race venue, says boat builder

A key boat building firm says decisions about where to host the next America's Cup shouldn't be driven by cost.

Alex Vallings says staging the famous race at one waterfront area may not be achievable. Photo / Doug Sherring
Alex Vallings says staging the famous race at one waterfront area may not be achievable. Photo / Doug Sherring

Auckland Council is due to make a tentative decision tomorrow over exactly where the next America's Cup will be based in Auckland.

The options have been narrowed down to three, with Team New Zealand wanting a 220m, $190 million extension to Halsey Wharf. The option would offer a "legacy" venue for marine sporting events but is vehemently opposed by environmental groups.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff - who must balance environmental concerns and pressures on council coffers - prefers the cheapest option, a $137 million base split across Halsey, Wynyard and Hobson wharves.

But Team New Zealand says that option will disappear after the cup is over, leaving no legacy for the city.

C-tech - the carbon composite manufacturing company that's worked with Team New Zealand for 15 years - says decision shouldn't be cost-driven.

"It would be really nice to have it all in one venue and to have that kind of party atmosphere and have everyone in the same area would be fantastic," C-Tech's Alex Valling said. "But I'm not sure if that's achievable or not."

The council will make an interim decision on where to put the America's Cup base tomorrow and will make a final decision on December 14.

Aucklanders spoken to by Herald Focus were excited about the cup's potential to bring tourists into the City of Sails.

Yvonne Townsend said the America's Cup would be an important money-earner for Auckland.

"We've got such a fantastic harbour, it's great to be to showcase it to the rest of the world."

But she agreed with Goff that pouring too much money into new bases was unnecessary.

Estimated economic benefits of hosting the America's Cup
2000: 495m to New Zealand, $397 to Auckland
2003: $529m to New Zealand, $450m to Auckland
2021: $600m - $1 billion to New Zealand, $403m to $892m to Auckland
Sources: Auckland Council, MBIE