Mayor backs SkyCity convention centre

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has come out swinging in favour of the controversial $350 million SkyCity convention centre.

The Government is negotiating a deal that would see SkyCity build the centre in return for extra pokie machines.

Auckland Council is divided over the deal.

But Brown told TVNZ's Q+A Auckland had to have a convention centre.

"I said right from the get-go to the Prime Minister  we desperately need that convention centre - 1000 jobs, 800 in construction, half a billion [dollars] a year, it's hugely important for Auckland."

He said Brisbane, which was one of Auckland's biggest competitors, attracted 86 conferences a year because of its convention centre. Auckland attracted just six.

"The economic benefit to Brisbane is massive. I believe we would take out exactly the same kind of economic benefit. So it's critical. And secondly, for me, its about jobs... We need to get our young people into jobs, that's my real clear focus."

But Brown admitted the extra pokie machines created "a conundrum".

He had made it clear to the Government that 500 extra pokie machines, as sought by SkyCity, was too much and he also expected preventive measures to be part of the deal - things like screen savers asking people if they want to stop playing, harm minimisation officers and money cards loaded with a set limit .

"I'm not negotiating this deal, the Government is [but] I would expect them to be negotiating well down the figures [500 pokie machines] the media are talking about."

Brown indicated that his support was conditional on that.

Auckland Now