Deals can go wrong - embarrassingly wrong, and I'd like to get my hands around the throats of the Government representatives who set up the Pokies for Convention Centre agreement.

In 2013, the deal was that the SkyCity casino operators would build a $402 million convention centre in return for concessions on its gambling licences, including a 27-year extension.

Also they have been allowed 230 additional poker machines and 40 more gaming tables. But last week, because of cost overruns and a decision to make a "flasher" building, a $130 million shortfall was announced.

The SkyCity bean counters - after having spent probably the best part of a hundred grand on slick computer-generated promotional videos - were on their knees, cap in hand, asking the Government for a top up.


But now, as of the weekend, SkyCity has backed down, right at the point where our Government was all but admitting that there would be taxpayer help for the project, after originally touting it as providing a "free" convention centre for Auckland and "not costing taxpayers or ratepayers a cent".

So it was on the cards that we were going to end up digging into our pockets, with walking away not seeming an option. What I find so galling is that right now Auckland is doing very well thank you very much, sucking off the teat of a "rock star economy".

Meanwhile, most other regions continue to struggle. And anyway, most of us don't want a multimillion-dollar convention centre with all the bells and whistles.

If I end up having to contribute, I will be highly miffed. If Auckland feel a desperate need to have such a grand showpiece, let them pay for it themselves. So why the last minute about-turn? Were they trying us on? I guess we'll find out in a day or two. Anyway, a million or so plucked out of chief executive Nigel Morrison's $2.6 million annual salary would get the ball rolling nicely should there be any shortfall.

With my eye surgery all over, it's great to enjoy normal panoramic vision again. The incredibly irritating cataract has been removed and a new distance lens delicately slipped into its place. Hopefully, that should last for the rest of my living days. Twelve months ago, my eyesight was pretty good but, as the year progressed, vision in my right eye became progressively cloudy.

Something had to be done. FYI $3175 per eye is the current rate for cataract surgery and, depending on how serious it is, there's a good chance you can have the entire cost covered through the public health system. But it has to be serious.

In my right eye, vision could be likened to looking through the bottom of a jam jar. My first two applications were declined and, when I received the letter in response to the third, I pledged before opening the envelope that if rejected, I would write out a cheque and just get the jolly thing over with. Fortunately the answer was "Yes, Mr Holden, you are now on the waiting list".

Not bad to find myself lying on the operating table in three months. We hear that the "system" has a lot of shortcomings and that the waiting list is unacceptably long. On the two cases I have had to use it, things have worked well for me. For elective surgery, it's pretty much a case of making the application through your GP or specialist in the early stages and ticking the right boxes - and be prepared to wait. Get on with life in the meantime. Your turn will come.


I have been asked why I don't have health insurance. Considering that the And Another Thing team has enjoyed excellent health over the years, we believe we are much better off not paying the hefty premiums for health insurance. However, for others, having comprehensive health cover might certainly be the way to go.

-Brian Holden has lived in Rotorua for most of his life and has been writing his weekly column for 11 years.