Auckland City councillors have come out swinging against a Government suggestion that ratepayer cash be used to prop up SkyCity's international convention centre.
Opposition parties yesterday panned the proposal.
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce this week floated the idea of a ratepayer subsidy for the operating costs of the centre once it is built. SkyCity is already set to receive hundreds of millions of dollars of gambling law concessions in exchange for building and running the centre, now priced at up to $530 million - $130 million more than originally billed.
"We're probably as surprised as any Aucklander that the statement has been made by Mr Joyce", Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse told the Herald.
"One would have expected if the Government was going to raise this as an issue in public they may well have talked to us first."
The Herald spoke to several other councillors yesterday, all opposed to Mr Joyce's suggestion and SkyCity's wish for financial concessions on council compliance costs for the project.
Rodney councillor Penny Webster was against either any ongoing ratepayer funding or compliance cost concessions.
"We struggle to actually write down compliance costs for charities and hospices and things. Why do it for SkyCity?"
North Shore councillor Chris Darby said if the council gave SkyCity breaks on compliance costs, "other developers would then be knocking on our door saying 'well our project for Auckland is also important'."
Auckland City's budget is already under pressure and ratepayers are facing rates rises next year.
Howick Councillor Dick Quax who had initially been supportive of the project said: "Auckland's got enough financial challenges at this time without us even contemplating the idea of subsidising the operation costs of what is essentially a private operator."
SkyCity boss Nigel Morrison's confirmed this week that the company wants taxpayers to bridge any shortfall in the centre's construction costs.
NZ First Leader Winston Peters said SkyCity should follow through on Mr Morrison's veiled threat to walk away from the deal if the Government didn't help fund the blowout.
"Go ahead, make my day SkyCity and do us all a favour."
Labour Leader Andrew Little said Prime Minister John Key should rule out any taxpayer funding.
"A deal is a deal is a deal. SkyCity offered to build the convention centre. If they can't come up with what they now say is a shortfall in costs that's their problem ... John Key needs to rule out any public hand-out right now".
Auckland councillors on ratepayer funding for the SkyCity international convention centre:
• Arthur Anae, Manukau
"They'll make money out of the extra gaming machines, they will make money out of the convention centre as time progresses so I don't see why the ratepayers should be subsidising a business in this way and they can't at this time. Auckland's budget is tight."
• John Watson, Albany
"Given the awareness of the problems caused by gambling that have been made only too apparent to the council on any number of occasions, it would be totally inappropriate for the council to use ratepayers money to prop up the SkyCity project."
• Denise Krum, Maungakiekie-Tamaki
"It sounds like a tall order."