Team New Zealand given finance to bridge gap

Team New Zealand have expressed their delight at receiving $5 million in bridging finance to retain key team members while a decision is made on whether to mount a challenge for the 35th America's Cup.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce today announced that Cabinet had agreed to provide the funding ''to ensure key team members including designers, sailors, support crew and administration staff are secured until May 2014, by which time Team New Zealand plans to finalise a decision on its involvement in the next regatta''. 

Managing director Grant Dalton said the team were working on the challenge almost from the last race day in San Francisco and were inspired by the heroes welcome they received on the Auckland waterfront despite losing out on the America's Cup title to Oracle.

"The extent of the enthusiastic reception when we arrived back in New Zealand was both unexpected and encouraging and an incentive to challenge again," Dalton said.

"We have been talking informally to existing and potential sponsors. We will begin to develop a business plan and sponsorship proposals so that we can start calling on them from next month."

In 2007 the government provided $10m on a similar basis. 

"The 2013 America's Cup was a great demonstration of the talent and innovation that New Zealand holds within its marine and technology sectors," Joyce said.  

"It also provided a very high profile for New Zealand expertise and innovation in the world's largest economy.  We are keen to retain the knowledge and skills of the team for a further challenge, should that prove feasible. 

"There is no doubt the 2013 America's Cup in San Francisco was hugely beneficial to New Zealand businesses, including our food and wine, ICT, tourism and marine industries who all leveraged successfully off the event. A thorough evaluation of the benefits to the New Zealand economy of the Government's $36 million investment in the 2013 America's Cup is under way and is expected in March 2014."

Prior to the America's Cup regatta, Prime Minister John Key made a series of comments which appeared both to trivialise the event, as well as playing down the chances of support for Team New Zealand if it did not bring the cup back to Auckland.

His government publicly announced that it was investigating whether it had to honour an agreement to provide $36m to the team, committed to by the former Labour government.

Only recently Key downplayed the economic spin offs the cup brought when it was held offshore. Asked at the start of the America's Cup if the payment was money well spent, Key said "come and ask me if they win", adding that it would be "much more difficult" to continue funding the team if they lost.

The comments prompted Ian Taylor, whose company Animation Research has produced animation for the event for more than two decades, to comment that it appeared the government did not understand the event.

The comments made Taylor ''ashamed'' of the way New Zealand treated innovators.

Joyce said planning was now underway for the next challenge. "However it will not be possible for them to finalise their involvement until such time as they know key elements of the regatta, including where and when it will be held,'' he said. 

"The Government will assess its further involvement based on a strong business case from the team, and the benefits our involvement would bring for New Zealand exporters and our New Zealand brand.''

Fairfax Media