The government minister in charge of striking a deal with Team New Zealand to keep the America's Cup here is warning a lack of money may mean it disappears off shore.
It comes as Auckland's mayor Phil Goff issues a plea to the team to stay put given the massive support from the city's ratepayers in recent years.
The Government has until June to negotiate a deal with the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Team New Zealand to keep the next challenger series here.
Minister Responsible for the America's Cup Stuart Nash told Newstalk ZB's Mike Hosking the Government would "love to be back for more" but economic factors could determine the final outcome.
"I would like to see this held in New Zealand next time but, again, we've got three months to sit down and negotiate that and see what it looks like," said Nash.
"It would be disappointing to see it head off shore but the economic reality may mean in this Covid time that the Government hasn't got the money to stump up and hold it."
Auckland's mayor told TVNZ's Breakfast after so much infrastructure investment the city wanted to see the next cup defence in the Hauraki Gulf.
"That's my call to Team New Zealand. We've got in behind you, we've backed you, we've given you the support, we've provided you with the infrastructure, please reciprocate," said Goff.
He hoped Team New Zealand would view any decision as something they're doing for New Zealand.
"The Government has said they'll come to the party again, they'll provide money to keep the team going, they'll provide money for hosting the event, we've got the infrastructure here, we're ready to welcome them back. I hope that's the decision they make," said Goff.
The Government and Auckland Council injected $249.5 million into the latest cup campaign, with the Government contributing $136.5m for construction, the event fee and commercial and base-related costs.
The council alone spent $113m to host the event, with $71.7m going into building team bases and the upgrade and expansion of superyacht berthages and a $34m share of the commercial and base-related costs.
The council also brought forward $100m of planned infrastructure projects at the waterfront.
Nash said it was well known Team New Zealand had put out a tender document seeking expressions of interest to hold the America's Cup in other countries.
He admitted it was hard to know if the tender to go offshore was negotiating or real.
"I saw a viaduct basin full of thousands of Kiwis celebrating New Zealand's success and that's pretty special. We've made a thing of saying the America's Cup is now New Zealand's Cup. I think there's an affinity with the New Zealand public. We love the team. We hold them up as one of our own successes in a way, I suppose, like we do the All Blacks."
Nash said the $5m injection the Government announced yesterday was to ensure the team did not disappear to competing syndicates.
"In our agreement with Team New Zealand there is a three-month good faith negotiation period so what we will then do is sit down with Team New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and negotiate about keeping the cup, hopefully, in New Zealand for the next America's Cup."
He said it was very difficult to judge the return on the Government's investment in Team New Zealand given the impact of Covid.
"This is one of those America's Cups that's really difficult to judge. Obviously normally we would have a whole lot of international tourists spending money in the country. We haven't got that but what we have got is a whole lot of international viewers sitting in their Covid lockdown in the middle of winter looking at New Zealanders on the water, no social distancing, having a great time, going 'when the border is open, that's where I want to be'. So very hard to measure that but certainly not the economic impact we would get if it wasn't for Covid."
This morning, former America's Cup sailor Dan Slater told Newstalk ZB's Early Edition it was probably unlikely it would leave our shores but if the local team was struggling for cash they "might not have a choice".
"The billionaires are circling thinking our own Team New Zealand probably, on paper, are vulnerable," said Slater.
There had been issues between Team New Zealand and the Government over tax and funding and sponsor Emirates was likely to have taken a major economic hit given the impact of the pandemic.
"So Emirates, to the outside, look quite vulnerable so who knows? The people who really want to get their hands on the America's Cup are probably circling right now like sharks."
He said while it was much easier to race at home than off shore, so the whole thing ultimately "money talks in the America's Cup game".