What does SkyCity have on John Key?

Media were delighted in speculating last year “what does Cameron Slater have on John Key?”. ?This was apparently to explain why John Key refused to rule out communicating with me in the future.

A question you won’t hear the media ask is “What does SkyCity have on John Key?”

The government are heading for a hugely unpopular move. ?Even some polling company can’t save National from the backlash if tax payer money is given to a business so they can build a privately owned building in exchange for?also getting additional licenses to allow for more gambling.

I don’t know what part of the (business) world you’re from, but that’s not how you do negotiations.

Prime Minister John Key won’t rule out using taxpayer money to stop SkyCity’s convention centre becoming an “eyesore”.

Mr Key expressed doubts over the wisdom of insisting the casino operator sticks to the initial $402 million spending plan for the building of the convention centre.

“I’m keen to see the best convention centre I can for Auckland, because this is a very long-term asset, so I would hate to see some sort of eyesore constructed down town.

“There are issues around the construction of it. Obviously you can spend more and get something that looks a lot better, or spend a bit less and get something that looks worse.”

However, he said it was “very unlikely” Auckland ratepayers would be asked to foot the bill for cost overruns.

Nice side-step. ?Of course Key can’t commit ratepayers’ money. ?But he can, and refuses to rule out, the use of general taxpayers’ money.

And the best reason they can come up with is that people?in Bulls, Westport, Hawera and Taupo have to cough up their taxes is so that Auckland won’t have to look at an ugly building.

National have had two months to think this over, and that’s the best they can come up with?

I realise Labour want us all to think that National now has third-term-itis with the requisite loss of focus and arrogance, but for goodness sake, do Joyce and Key have to make it this easy for them?

Mr Key today told reporters he could not rule out taxpayer money being used to meet some of the cost overrun, but negotiations were ongoing and nothing had been taken off the table.

“In a nutshell, the Government has an agreement with them [SkyCity]. It could make them meet that agreement but the escalation in prices to build the convention centre, which is bigger than was proposed and flasher than was proposed, means there is a hole.

“So there are a couple of options. Option one would be to say to Sky City, ‘Build the convention centre exactly at the price that we all agreed, on the conditions of the deal that we agreed’, but it would be smaller I think than we had hoped and less attractive.

“Or the second option is to see if there’s any way of filling that hole and to identify how big that hole is, and that’s the process we’re going through.”

Is SkyCity asking for more? ?Or did Key and Joyce agree to something that was never going to be possible in the first place?

Here’s the thing. ?We, the taxpayers were told that this was an excellent deal where in the exchange for gambling licences, we would get a convention centre. ?And we would not have to pay a single cent for the deal.

Was it all a lie?

The cost of the project was estimated to cost as much as $128 million more than the original $402 million agreement between the casino and the Government.

Both parties reached a deal which involved a law change for gambling rule concessions in exchange for SkyCity building the centre.

Prime Minister John Key said today he couldn’t rule out using taxpayer funds to cover the “price escalation”.

“But what I can say is we’re working closely with SkyCity to try and see if a deal can be completed.

“The deal was they built the convention centre with no taxpayer resources and that deal is still absolutely there.”

Well, that’s it then. ?The deal is what the deal is. ? And now a private company wants us to cough up $128 million to make it all look fancier. ? And Key and Joyce are trying to soften us up for exactly such a deal.

What will the taxpayer get for $128 million? ? An ugly building.

Do we care? ? Do we care at the tune of giving a private company with shareholders a $128M GIFT?

Why are we still talking about this?

Mr Little said the stakes are high for Mr Key and Mr Joyce and that SkyCity has done the “political calculus” on the deal.

“John Key has staked his Prime Ministership on it, Steven Joyce has staked his reputation as the great negotiator and they cannot be seen to be walking away from it because it would be a huge failure on their part if this doesn’t go ahead.”

I can’t understand why National are dying in a ditch over this. ?Is personal pride more important than our national interests?


– Nicholas Jones, NZ Herald, 3 News