MP stands by Rotorua cash grant

BENN BATHGATE
Last updated 12:45 14/08/2014

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The gloves are off in the fight for the Rotorua electorate, with claims of corporate welfare and pork barrel politics over a taxpayer grant for a new mountainbike track.

A war of words has erupted between incumbent MP Todd McClay and Labour candidate Tamati Coffey over the $225,000 of taxpayer cash which part-funded the Skyline Rotorua Mountain Bike Gravity Park, officially opened by McClay last Friday.

Coffey said good governments had a role to play in supporting businesses but he queried both the recipient of the cash and the timing.

"The timing can be seen as a little dodgy," Coffey said. "But I think the most concerning thing for New Zealanders is why one of the wealthiest multinational businesses in New Zealand needs $225,000 of taxpayer money to build a mountainbike park?"

He said the company in question owned a casino in Christchurch, hotels, apartments and helicopter lines in Queenstown, and global operations including gondola and luge attractions in Canada and Singapore.

He said he backed job creation and initiatives that raised Rotorua's profile but thought the news coming ahead of the election "seems a little sly".

Coffey's concerns were shared by Taxpayers' Union executive director Jordan Williams. "This is corporate welfare and pork-barrel politics in one," he said.

"The local MP has thrown taxpayer money at a sexy venture in the name of economic development. Some could perceive this as a cynical attempt to shore up support in the Rotorua electorate."

McClay rejected the criticism, labelling it "a desperate bid to attract attention during an election campaign".

He said the investment came from the Tourism Growth Partnership under which projects are selected for funding via an independent panel of experts.

benn.bathgate@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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