Council silent on Government's Sky City deal

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 13:49 26/04/2012

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Auckland Council will not publicly oppose Sky City's controversial $350m national convention centre - at least for now.

A packed and vocal meeting of Auckland's governing body turned down a motion to tell the Government that it did not support the Sky City project.

Mayor Len Brown led objections to the motion, talking extensively about not wanting to take a stance early in negotiations without hard facts.

The Government is in talks with Sky City about the casino building a $350m national convention centre in return for legislative changes allowing it up to 500 new pokie machines.

Councillor Dr Cathy Casey, who had put forward the motion, questioned the benefits of a centre built through a deal with Sky City.

Councillor Sandra Coney said it would make more sense to have a local company invest in the centre so the proceeds could stay here.

''There were other parties interested but they didn't get a fair chance.''

But Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett warned councillors not to be ''distracted'' from the need for a national convention centre.

He said he had received advice it would bring in $400m a year and $85m in increased tourism spend.

''It would bring high value professionals into the city... These are the type of people we must attract.''

The mayor agreed Aucklanders could do with the 1000 jobs that the centre is anticipated to create, plus the 800 jobs needed for building.

He said more work needed to be done in the negotiations. Measures to minimalise harm to pokie players should also be part of any agreement, such as pre-paid cards, cash in and ticket out systems and screensavers, Brown said.

''I want to await the outcome of that detail.''

In the end, 11 out of 20 councillors agreed with him.

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- Auckland Now

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