America's Cup challenge funding not ruled out
TRACY WATKINS, HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Should the Government fund a new America's Cup challenge?
The Government is vowing to give serious consideration to any request from Team New Zealand to assist with another tilt at the America's Cup, with officials expected to talk up the benefits.
Speaking from San Francisco, Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said he had told the team that the Government would look at a proposal if it was brought forward, and he believed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment would look on funding positively.
''If you want to look at it from an economic perspective, there's any number of people in America now who we want to work with who have a view on the whole thing who now know a whole lot more about New Zealand...which they would never have known four to six weeks ago,'' Joyce said.
Earlier this month Prime Minister John Key cast doubt on whether it was a good idea to contribute $36 million to the campaign - but now said the money was well spent and he had no regrets.
Joyce said the way racing had unfolded, from the near capsize to Oracle's comeback, had given the event unexpected profile.
''I think it's turned out better than most expected, because of, ironically, the way it has unfolded, the cup, and it's probably got a far greater profile even though New Zealand didn't end up winning it, in fact possibly because of it, because this thing has gripped the Americas over the last few days.''
High profile publications such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal had run extensive stories covering New Zealand's involvement.
''I would say it's certainly come off for us in terms of investment. It was risky at the time, particularly since the GFC [global financial crisis] turned up, but you'd have to say it's turned out well.''
Joyce had spoken only briefly to key members of the team, who were not in a position to think about a defence.
''I said to them, if they did bring a proposal to us, the Government would look at that seriously, given the outcome and given the profile that New Zealand's received out of the campaign,'' he said.
''We've just got to wait, let the dust settle, let the emotions settle. It's pretty raw here at the moment, as you can imagine. Some of the people here have been working on it for 10 years and are not really in a position to start making massive commitments,'' he said, with no one in the team thinking about the issue of a new challenge.
''The intention was to win the cup. Right up until the end it was plan A and they didn't have a plan B.''
Meanwhile Key said it was the right decision for the Government to bankroll the cup challenge.
"We can all go and second-guess it and of course it would have been great for New Zealand if we'd won, but if you want to win something sometimes you have to be prepared to accept that you'll lose.
''On this occasion we lost, it feels pretty tough, But I for one don't have any regrets about that $36 million."
Asked if that meant the Government would fund another challenge Key said the dust would need to settle on today's loss first.
"Before you can have any of those discussions team New Zealand has to sit down and say can they find the sponsors, can they find or put together such a challenge?," Key said.
"The New Zealand [government] portion, although it's an awful lot of taxpayers' money, is actually just a small part of what this entire campaign has cost and you've got to find the personnel and all those other things. They're pretty hard discussions to have today but they'll get easier over time as people get a chance to regroup and reflect, but today isn't the day to have those discussions."
Key said there were a number of things to consider before New Zealand taxpayer money was put on the line.
"One of the big factors always with the America's Cup is the fact that the nation loves its sport and loves its sailing, and that in the event you can win the cup and bring it back to New Zealand then you really showcase an industry for which we have a lot of expertise.
''You only need to take a walk down around the Viaduct harbour and see how many businesses are there and how well respected our technology and capability in this area is. We are a $220 billion economy. We spend about $70 billion a year as taxpayers. and when you put it in the context of that sometimes the Government putting some money on the line doesn't seem quite so bad. But I know New Zealanders work hard, they work hard to pay their taxes and they expect the Government to be serious and careful about the way they spend their money and we intend to do that."
Key acknowledged there would be plenty of New Zealanders who did not think the government should fund another defence.
"And there will be plenty of Kiwis who don't think we should have upgraded Eden Park for the Rugby World Cup and don't think we should be co hosting the cricket World Cup...and they've got a legitimate perspective."
Many would also question the cost of New Zealand challenging for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, the purpose of his visit to New York this week.
"But when you are a country like New Zealand and at the bottom of the earth, no one owes us a living, no one builds that reputation other than ourselves, there's a lot of different factors that go together and surely a Government's job and a half decent prime minister's job is to think about how you put all the pieces together to form a picture and perspective on New Zealand which falls where most New Zealanders would vote."
Former Prime MInister Helen Clark, whose government initially allocated the funding, said it had been value for money.
Speaking in New York just before Team New Zealand's loss, Clark said there had always been been bipartisan support for the funding.
"No question New Zealand has got a lot of publicity out of this team...from the time Peter Blake bought the cup home. [We have] kept getting the profile through good years and bad with the cup."
- © Fairfax NZ News
Can the ACT Party survive?Related story: ACT life support still on