Moves are being made by a Kiwi rich-lister to see if the defence of the America's Cup can be held in Auckland after all.
Mark Dunphy, CEO and chairman of Greymouth Petroleum and estimated by NBR to be worth $230 million, is at the helm of the move to hold the 37th America's Cup in Auckland – most likely with a mix of private and Government funding.
Dunphy has been speaking to the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, the holders of the Cup, but says the squadron and Team New Zealand now need to answer the question: are they committed to a local defence if the money can be found?
"There is no doubt there is money there," said Dunphy, when asked if he and backers of the move already had the wherewithal, "but we can't really talk money until certain issues have been resolved."
Those issues were:
• Commitment from Team NZ and the RNZYS that they will defend the Cup in New Zealand if the money is raised;
• That Team NZ would not "stand in the way" of the RNZYS when it comes to a local defence;
• That Team NZ delay any decision on a venue (the current deadline is September 17 with Cork in Ireland and Valencia in Spain thought to be frontrunners) until November 17, the date when the protocol for the 37th America's Cup must be released.
"I am doing this because I believe the America's Cup really is New Zealand's cup in more ways than one," Dunphy said. "Everyone in New Zealand has contributed to it, through Government, and it's a unique showpiece for our nation.
"As Kiwis, we should not let defending the Cup go overseas, if at all possible. Grant Dalton and Team NZ have done a fantastic job and won our admiration with a wonderful team of sailors and the design team.
"But it seems silly that, collectively, we New Zealanders can't find a way to both stay here and defend it here and achieve what Team NZ want – a three-peat."
One insider spoken to by the Herald estimated that Dunphy and others are looking for up to $80m, maybe more, to bridge the gap between the (since withdrawn) Government offer of $99m and Team NZ's financial needs. Team NZ turned down that, though only about a third of that figure was in cash. Up to $200m has been mooted as the top end of a budget needed to finance a defence in the AC75 foiling monohulls.
However, this new move has reportedly seen Dunphy talking directly to the RNZYS, the holder of the Cup and yacht club at the heart of New Zealand's America's Cup challenges; under the Cup's deed of gift, it is the entity that decides on the venue, though influenced by the defending team.
"It is the squadron that decides," Dunphy said, "not Team New Zealand – though what's needed now is a commitment from both. We can't talk money until then."
Dunphy has previous links with the America's Cup; Sir Michael Fay backed New Zealand's first Cup campaigns in the 1980s and Dunphy was formerly a director of Fay Richwhite and CEO of their Australian operation.
He is a powerful business force in his own right – Greymouth Petroleum is the country's second-largest New Zealand-based oil and gas company, supplying 15 per cent of our daily gas production.
Greymouth Petroleum is also suing the Government, a court challenge to the 2018 announcement that New Zealand would immediately stop offering offshore oil and gas exploration permits. Minister of Energy and Resources Megan Woods is being sued over the way the ban was implemented, as well as the refusal of the company's application for a permit in Taranaki in 2017.
Another interesting aspect of the Dunphy America's Cup effort is that it is focusing largely on the RNZYS – although Dunphy said he had corresponded with Team NZ "through the squadron".
One yachting source said: "If they find the money, it could lead to members of the current Team NZ migrating across to a new entity. There would seem to be two options – Team NZ either wind up or they could negotiate a defender series [where yachts from the defending country race off to decide who will sail in the Cup match]."
However, another insider said the intent was not to take over Team NZ but simply to ensure a home defence.
Dunphy said: "What we are trying to do is completely unmanageable without a clear commitment from the squadron and Team NZ that, if the money is here, the defence will be here. It's time for that question to be answered and I think it would be unforgivable for everyone involved in the Cup if that was not to happen.
"There are a lot of people whose honour is at stake, not least of whom is Sir Peter Blake and a great many others who have done masses for New Zealand."
Team NZ have always said their preferred venue is Auckland. However, Dalton told a meeting at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in June that negotiations with the government were unlikely to succeed.
RNZYS commodore Aaron Young would not comment on Thursday but, when Dalton gave his June briefing to the squadron, Young said: "We would hold it in Auckland in a heartbeat but ... sad as it is, the Cup is all about money. There is no money tree".
Earlier this month, he emailed RNZYS members to inform them of the failure of the squadron's attempt to raise at least $80m to add to the Government's $99m to hold the regatta in Auckland.
"We have had many worthwhile meetings, some positive outcomes and some nos. I can honestly say we have tried and continue to do so, but as of now we aren't there," Young wrote in the email. "Time isn't on our side ... There is genuine interest internationally to support our team and host the AC37 event ... the RNZYS needs our team to represent the RNZYS by conducting a successful defence and event, so nothing has changed there. We continue to work closely with TNZ towards this common goal."
Earlier this week, Young also told the Herald there were a couple of local New Zealanders who had expressed interest "but there's nothing in concrete".