Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is adamant the Government did all it could financially to try and keep the America's Cup in New Zealand.
Team New Zealand boss Grant Dalton confirmed yachting's worst-kept secret yesterday when he confirmed the syndicate had officially rejected a Government-Auckland Council bid worth $99 million – made up of both cash and services in kind.
While both Dalton said the decision didn't rule out any chance of the event staying in New Zealand, well-placed Cup insiders now believe it is all but certain to be raced offshore.
The Isle of Wight, Cork, China, Saudi Arabia, Valencia and Dubai have been listed as potential Cup defence hosts.
"The Government, on behalf of taxpayers, went into those negotiations in good faith in the hope of being able to retain the competition here in New Zealand. We wanted to have that home crowd, and for every Cup where we've held it, we've hosted," Ardern said.
"We have to make sure that not only we put our best foot forward and make every endeavour to hold and host the race here, we also needed to identify the point where it wouldn't be value for money for New Zealanders.
"The ball is in their court. We believe we've made a decent offer, and now it's for them to resolve where the Cup will be raced."
Ardern said she "like every other Kiwi" wanted to see the defence held here.
In announcing the rejection, Dalton said it was now time to "explore other opportunities to ensure we can put up another successful defence".
He said regardless of where the event was held, the syndicate would "always be Team New Zealand".
Dalton also left the door ajar for New Zealand to remain as a potential host despite the rejection to the $99m package.
"If resources enable an event in New Zealand we will remain open to it," he said.
"We certainly want to explore holding a regatta in Auckland and along with discussing the venue for AC37 with other nations, would like to work through that opportunity also."
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the city would be "disappointed" with the rejection and that Team NZ is likely to be out of its council-owned waterfront base by March.
"I think Aucklanders will be very disappointed at the decision by Team New Zealand to look overseas to defend the America's Cup," Goff said.
Goff said under an agreement with the council, Team New Zealand had the right to use the events centre rent-free over the term of two cup defences, but the agreement comes to an end on March 1 if the next defence is not held in Auckland.
"At that point the rent will become commercial and at that point or before I think Team New Zealand will probably be looking at alternative premises," Goff said.
"Aucklanders did really get behind Team New Zealand in terms of funding - $113m worth of infrastructure that went in - but just as importantly we got behind them in terms of the huge support that Aucklanders gave to the team sailing in this, their home port."
From March the events centre would return to being a commercial venue for hire.
The value of the events centre to Team NZ was about $3m-$4m a year.
Goff said the council's contribution to the $99m joint Government-Auckland Council bid to keep the next cup defence in Auckland was for services in kind, including the continued use of the events centre.
He confirmed Team New Zealand was seeking twice what was offered by the Government and council.
"We made the best offer that we could, $100m between Government and the council, the council contribution largely being in kind, things like the event centre that was a fantastic base for Team NZ, and of course the bases that are already there on Wynyard Point and in terms of management of on-land and on-water requirements for the race."
America's Cup Minister Stuart Nash said also said it had been "disappointing" that no deal could be confirmed within exclusive negotiation period with the Cup holders.
He said the syndicate was now "free to look to commercial sponsors, private supporters, or other avenues to bankroll the operation".
He described the Government and council's Auckland hosting bid as a "very generous offer".
"It was a highly credible offer, given the current economic environment and pressure on government accounts," Nash said. "We went into the process in good faith to secure the event.
"The negotiations and the offer are commercial-in-confidence and details cannot be shared at this point. However, I can confirm it involved cash and in-kind support worth around $99 million."
The Government had contributed a total of $136.5m towards this year's successful Cup defence, including $40m cash to deliver and manage the event.