SkyCity- It's not over yet.

I was amused to see the usual National Party sycophants falling over themselves to paint the new agreement as some kind of win for the Key/ Joyce/ Eagleson team. I don’t see its necessarily that at all. Steven Joyce waffled enthusiastically-

“I have repeatedly stated since December that our least preferred option is for the Government to contribute funding for the project. I am pleased to confirm that will be the case.”

It seems to me that this option has been available right from the time the inflated costings were presented. All Key/ Joyce had to say then was what they said to SkyCity today- “Its your problem”.

There can only be one reason why it wasn’t said then and that is that Joyce thought maybe he could do the deal and fork over the extra $130 million. After time showed this would be very unpopular with the voters, Joyce backed away. It was never anything but a try on.

However I am surprised there hasn’t been much attention paid to the final paragraphs of Joyce’s press release, where he states-

“The Crown has also indicated today that it may be prepared to accept a slightly smaller NZICC, if that is required to meet the agreed total construction cost,” Mr Joyce says.

“SkyCity will now work on a revised Preliminary Design in the coming weeks and will submit it on a date that will be agreed by both parties.

I may be reading that wrong but I think the key phrases here are “may be prepared to accept” and “if that is required” and “will submit it” where submit implies a request that may or may not be approved or agreed upon.

To me these phrases signify the claimed agreement at the weekend was mere waffle designed to cover the reality that in fact nothing firm has been decided either way.

It seems as if the project is as fraught as ever, with the statement from Joyce leaving so many important questions unanswered. For example what about Joyce’s claim when he was lobbying for the taxpayer funding, that the building would be too down market to be useful if the extra money was not spent? How was that problem overcome? Will the centre still be a profitable business and meet the original objectives after the proposed size reductions? If not, why build it?

I guess SkyCity will not forgo any of the special treatment they were afforded under Joyce’s “picking winners” strategy. Should those conditions stay the same if the same degree of public benefit is not going to be present? The reality here is that the Convention Centre doesn’t really have to make a profit. The lucrative gambling concessions are the main income earner, and I’d guess SkyCity would probably be ready to write the whole $400 million cost of the centre off anyway over time.

There is still a lot to unfold here. The only real conclusion that can be drawn by what has happened so far is that Joyce, Key and Eagleson are a collection of self promoting amateurs who should never ever have got the govt involved in this fiasco. Just more of the same old cronyism that is always so common under big spending socialists. Mr. Key’s government is all about influence peddling and who you know.

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