Auckland Council has approved additional funding of $14.5 million for the America's Cup, but not before some councillors voiced concerns over the added cost to ratepayers for a "rich man's sport".
Councillors voted today at an extraordinary meeting of the governing body for the extra money with dissenting votes from Mike Lee, Efeso Collins, John Watson and Wayne Walker.
The vote comes two days after the Government provided an additional $22.5m to build the infrastructure on the Auckland waterfront for the 36th defence of the cup in 2021.
I'm getting off the bus here. I'm not going to support another cent for the America's Cup
Auckland ratepayers' contribution to the cup has risen from $98.5m to $113m and taxpayers' contribution from $114m to $136.5m.
The additional funds follow higher-than-forecast costs for wave breaks and dredging work.
Tina Symmans, who is chairing the company running the cup event in Auckland, agreed "absolutely" with a suggestion from Mayor Phil Goff that the cup would be in jeopardy if the Government and council did meet the extra costs.
In a presentation to the meeting, Symmans and Team New Zealand chief operating officer Kevin Shoebridge talked about the benefits of the cup to Auckland, including the creation of jobs, spending by more than 100 super yachts and companies like Southern Spars with an order book for 13 masts at $1 million each.
On peak days, up to 100,000 people are expected to flock to the event on the waterfront, Symmans said.
Councillor Josephine Bartley was concerned about the benefits of the cup reaching people like a kapa haka group in Glen Innes. Manukau councillor Efeso Collins was also concerned about how the cup may bypass people in South Auckland.
Yes, wealthy people funded the sport, said Shoebridge, but the people in the teams are not rich but normal people.
Councillor Mike Lee said the America's Cup is the sport of billionaires for billionaires.
Somebody has to remember the ratepayer, he said, who had made a generous contribution in March this year and now had a major increase.
"It won't be the end. I'm getting off the bus here. I'm not going to support another cent for the America's Cup," Lee said.
Other councillors, including Chris Fletcher and the mayor, backed the extra spending on the basis of the economic benefits it will bring to Auckland.
Most of the 8000 new jobs and $600m to $1 billion of forecast economic benefit would occur in Auckland, Goff said.
Goff wanted an assurance from officers that there would be no more cost increases.
Council chief operating officer Dean Kimpton said he could not provide a guarantee but the costs were in a better place than the first costings in March this year.
The new costs were initially estimated at $99m more than originally forecast by the Wynyard Edge Alliance of companies building the infrastructure, but were cut back by $70m after the council and Government asked the alliance to refine the project scope and review the cost.
The cost savings were made by reducing the size of the Hobson St wharf extension, redesigning breakwaters, replacing fixed breakwaters with floating where possible and reducing some work on Wynyard Wharf, according to a report at today's extraordinary governing body meeting to approve the extra funding.
As well as paying $113m towards the infrastructure and running costs, the council is spending $100m on 'auxiliary works' to improve the waterfront.
They relate to Wynyard Wharf repairs, Hobson Wharf wave panels, a superyacht berthing facility, relocating the Sealink ferry service and a stormwater outfall at Daldy St. These costs have been budgeted for in the council's 10-year budget.
Some of these items will improve water quality and enhance utilities at Viaduct Basin, the report said.
On Monday, Economic Development Minister David Parker said the Government's contribution of $136.5m "will ensure we deliver a great regatta in 2021".
Parker said the event, which is to be held in 2021, was estimated to provide between a $550m to $1 billion increase to the economy.
It would also return "significant tax income to the Government and provide wonderful opportunities to showcase our country, people and innovation", Parker said.
The funding announcements follow the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) on Friday revealing a further eight notices of challenge had been received by the deadline.
An acceptance process will determine how many challengers will compete in the Prada Cup alongside Luna Rossa, American Magic and INEOS Team UK.