Wellington mayor Andy Foster is ploughing ahead with the city's Convention Centre, although he has indicated it could be partly repurposed should the market not have recovered by the time the building is scheduled to open in 2023.
The Convention Centre is a building that seems to consistently land itself in the middle of controversy.
Originally, it was meant to have a movie museum attached to it until Sir Peter Jackson and the council announced a "mutually agreed parting of the ways".
Then, more recently, there was an awkward name double-up.
The proposed name for the Convention Centre was pulled from a city council agenda amid concerns it could be confusing, since a cafe in Lower Hutt already has the same name.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, there have been questions raised over whether the building could be repurposed or should be going ahead at all.
The council is facing a massive $70 million fiscal shortfall for the 2020/21 year as its revenue streams from the likes of swimming pools and parking enforcement dry up.
Foster acknowledged many people had suggested the council stop construction of the Convention Centre.
But he pointed out the council has already spent the "thick end" of $60m on land, design, foundations and materials such as base isolators and steel.
"We have contracts for construction, so stopping construction would incur very significant damage claims from contractor, subcontractors, suppliers – and, importantly, put 800-plus people out of work," he said.
"It would also damage council's reputation as a reliable client for future construction projects, and that risk would likely be priced into future construction tenders. So we could spend perhaps $80-90m but have nothing to show for it. That would be terrible."
Foster said the business case was predicated on domestic and Australian custom and should the convention market not have recovered when opening in 2023, then the building's "large flat floors could be partly repurposed".
Work had already begun at the Convention Centre site before the Covid-19 lockdown with the base structure nearing completion and all 220 piles laid.
Manufacture of the base isolators has been completed and these are now in transit, so it won't be long before people see the building's structure emerging above ground.
Despite the delay due to Covid-19, the council has reported the centre remains on track to be completed in early 2023 and is well placed to support economic recovery.
WellingtonNZ was confident that small to medium-sized conferences would remain relevant, despite the world of "mega conferences" looking quite different in the wake of the pandemic.
"We are hearing from around New Zealand and the world that academics, associations, government organisations and businesses are already planning their meeting and conference schedule for 2021," said the general manager for regional development, destination and attraction, David Perks.
WellingtonNZ has received several new inquiries to book space in the Convention Centre as soon as it opens, he said.
"The size of the Wellington Exhibition and Convention Centre coupled with its flexibility is an important part of Wellington's ability to attract those sized conferences in the future."
The building will cost $157.8m, of which 67 per cent is funded by the commercial sector, and will support 864 construction jobs and 372 jobs from operations.