Holes in the Sky City dealJOHN HARTEVELT
Is the bun fight over the Sky City convention centre really worth it? On the one hand, John Key seems as committed as he could possibly be to the deal going through. But on the other, political pragmatist Steven Joyce took the chance this weekend to jimmy the door open a little wider and slightly more emphatically for the deal still to be abandoned. It really ought to be.
Enough holes have now been picked in this deal for it to finally be dropped.
Nothing much new has come to light in the past few days about pokie machines, gaming tables and all the associated harm that will follow if the deal goes through. All of that was known when the idea was launched back in June and it is no less objectionable now than it was back then.
But what has become clearer now is the extent to which Sky City had the inside running for the deal.
Key has always insisted that Sky City was the only bidder that could do the deal without any cash needed from the Government. The implication was always that the other bidders actually put numbers up that paled in comparison with Sky City's. Key now admits that was not the case and numbers only emerged from Sky City and no one else. It's almost certainly true that Sky City could offer the best financial terms to the Government, but without any actual figures from rival bidders, how could Key be absolutely sure?
We now know, for example, that the late Lloyd Morrison personally contacted Key in August 2010 seeking to discuss a potential Public Private Partnership for the convention centre. He seems to have had no audience with Key on the issue and instead had his personal emailed plea passed along to Gerry Brownlee, who replied with a fob-off one month later.
Morrison's outfit sank cash into the Melbourne Convention Centre but scarcely got a look in for Auckland. They were planning a site for the convention centre at the Wynyard Quarter - a spot officials described as ''optimal'' in their advice to ministers on a potential centre. Surely then, Morrison was at least worth getting in for a chat. If a PPP with Morrison had been picked, plans would be much further advanced for a centre actually getting built than they now are; the Crown would have a stake in the new build; and most of all, the discomforting allegations of laws seemingly being for sale and the inevitability of the Government mandating more harm from problem gambling would be off the table.
Surely that's reason enough to stop the talks, isn't it?
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