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Fully-Fledged Convention Centre Vital

August 1, 2002

Fully-Fledged Convention Centre Vital

While Sky City’s proposed convention centre will meet a certain demand, it is not big enough to drive Auckland into the international convention circuit, says Auckland City Deputy Mayor, David Hay.

Councillor Hay says that while Sky City's proposed convention centre would increase choice, it would not expand the market. "It is worth noting that the Christchurch Town Hall and convention complex is three times the size of the Sky City proposal."

"You can not get away from the fact that what we have in Auckland is simply not good enough and the Sky City proposal on its own will not provide what Auckland needs."

He says while it might create space for larger functions to be held in the city and attract banquet business it will not meet the demands of the market.

"It is really an add on to an existing facility and in the long term will not make Auckland internationally competitive with cities such as Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, or even Adelaide, which has population similar to that of Auckland.

Competitive Auckland, a group set up to enhance economic growth in Auckland, have already identified a convention centre as being key to making Auckland competitive both nationally and internationally.

"Size is definitely an issue. If you are going to invest big money in a convention centre then the smallest option should be for around 1500 delegates - the Sky City proposal does not meet this demand“ says Councillor Hay.

"Exhibition space is also essential as revenue from trade exhibitions is vital to the economics and funding of conventions.
"Convention centres really need to be marketed as stand alone operations that provide all the ingredients demanded by international convention organisers.
"The branding is important and if you put the name of a gaming operator such as Sky City together with the facility you will definitely alienate some sectors."

Councillor Hay is a director on The Edge Board, which has responsibility for the Aotea Centre. He says, if the Aotea Centre was to be the cornerstone for a convention centre it would have to be marketed as the Auckland Convention Centre rather than the Aotea Centre or The Edge.

Councillor Hay acknowledges that there is little community understanding of the economic value of a dedicated convention centre.

"This is a shame because the returns are in fact enormous. Conferences and conventions have been shown again and again to act as a catalyst for spending in the broader community with an important side effect of generating interest and investment by commercially influential attendees who might not otherwise have visited the area.

"Another, and not so well recognised benefit is the estimated 60 per cent of attendees who will return within five years," added Councillor Hay.

He says that even though ratepayers might not benefit from personal use of a convention centre the economic benefits are certainly there for the wider community.

"It is estimated that for every dollar spent by a convention attendee ten cents goes directly to the conference venue with the rest being spent in the city.

"Investment in infrastructure such as a convention centre has to happen. We can't afford for it not to. Auckland has slipped in the economic activity stakes compared with cities like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane

"It is our lack of infrastructure and world class facilities that is letting us down. Thirty years of America's Cups won’t be enough to save us if we don’t address these issues."

ENDS

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