Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Our submission on the Sky City deal legislation

Here is our submission to the Select Committee considering the legislation that will enable the Sky City convention centre-for-pokies deal to happen.  You can read the legislation itself, and make your own online submission, here.  The Greens also have a quick online form to make a submission that may be easier for those who want to show their opposition but don't have a lot of time.

Submission on the New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill

1.     Roskill Community Voice is a political organisation, established in 2010. which contests local body elections in the Puketapapa Local Board area, part of Auckland Council.  We are part of City Vision, and as such are endorsed by Labour, the Greens, and community independents.  We are currently represented on the Puketapapa Local Board by Julie Fairey and Michael Wood, and are running a full slate of six candidates for the 2013 elections, including Fairey, Wood and four others; Garth Houltham, David Holm, Harry Doig and Shail Kaushal.  While we are endorsed by both Labour and the Greens we set our policy independently and this submission has been primarily written by Julie Fairey, who is a community independent and not a member of any political party.  We have also had feedback from our community in the Puketapapa area and further afield in Auckland which has informed and aligned with the views expressed in this submission.

2.    Roskill Community Voice has taken a strong stance against the proliferation of pokies since our very beginning.  We have consistently advocated for measures that will reduce the number of pokies in our community and in Auckland; including a sinking lid without relocation for Puketapapa and the Auckland region.

3.    In 2012 Board member Fairey moved a Notice of Motion for the Puketapapa Local Board to oppose the Sky City Convention Centre deal on the basis that it would increase the number of pokies in Auckland.  This Notice of Motion was amended, and passed unanimously by the Board, including the following clause specifically on the deal itself:

“That the Puketapapa Local Board supports a new international convention centre for Auckland, but does not support any deal that  would result in an increase in gambling machines in Auckland,  including an increase in any venue, in accordance with our position on gambling machines in our 2011 Local Board Plan.”

4.     Roskill Community Voice does not support the international convention centre deal, even with the reduction in pokies that has now been agreed.  We consider the business case for the International Convention Centre weak and flawed, in particular the reliance on an increase in harmful pokies and electronic gambling tables, as well as an increase in casino space, to secure Sky City’s funding for the construction.  In a very short period of time the limited public benefit of not paying for the cost of construction will be overtaken by the very real public costs of gambling harm.  Any ongoing jobs created are likely to be much lower than the estimates given in the media, as shown by comparable developments in Australia.

5.  We specifically object to the 35 year licence guarantee, which inhibits future governments and council from measures to limit the harm from the casino, by requiring multi million dollar compensations to Sky City.  This is not only a bad way to make law it also undermines the sovereignty of future Parliaments.

6.  We further object to the expansion of gambling for a business which returns a far smaller share of its revenue to community projects than other outlets whose facilities are being (properly) reduced.  Casinos pay a very small portion back to the community and make very large profits, as well as causing significant harm to individuals, families, businesses and communities.   

7.    We also hold very real concerns about the process by which this legislation has come about.  The tender process was not sufficiently transparent, with Sky City appearing to be favoured early in the process.  In addition subsequent negotiations between the Government and Sky City do not seem to have delivered a very good deal for the Government party, perhaps in part because key Ministers and the Prime Minister were vociferous in their support for such a deal to the point where it became politically necessary to them for a deal to be concluded with Sky City, to the detriment of their bargaining position.

8.    Roskill Community Voice feel strongly that this is a deal that is being imposed on Auckland by Parliament, which is clearly not wanted by Aucklanders and is the equivalent of a whole new casino in our city.  It is in direct contradiction of the wishes of many communities, Local Boards and the Governing Body of Auckland Council.  We submit that the legislation should not proceed.

9.      We would like to appear to speak to our submission and request that the Committee travel to Auckland to hear submissions.