The Great (Scoop) V8 Debate With Mark Blumsky
The Great (Scoop) V8 Debate With Mark Blumsky
Featuring A Walk-On Appearance By "The Doctor" Martin
Featuring A Walk-On Appearance By "The Doctor" Martin Lally
By Kevin List
Has Wellington Really Seen The Back Of V8 Supercars Event Yet?
Wellington's civic establishment was close to boiling point late Monday. Tensions have been running high between pro and anti V8 race factions for weeks, and the entire superheated melting pot was ready to rumble come Tuesday night at the Paramount Theatre.
That was until the Wellington City Council had a wee rethink on where and when the V8 race should happen (officially prompted by a new-found Mayoral concern for trees, though some suggest counting may have played a part), and Wellington central MP Marian Hobbs - who had initiated the public meeting - pulled the plug.
This unexpected development left opposing factions stumbling around like zombies, zombies that had nowhere left to go but back to the letters page and talkback radio.
In an effort to take the pressure off this cooker, Scoop took a new ball and fired down a few V8 bouncers at the Wellington V8s champion / latter day Lancelot of the motor racing fan / and former Mayor turned National Party Candidate for Wellington Central Mark Blumsky.
Mr Blumsky is a man that understands democracy and believes passionately that having the V8 race in Wellington is the wish of the masses. And according to the City Council submissions in favour of the proposed race far outweighed those in opposition.
This might have had something to do with the advertising campaign which has been running on the radio telling people where to go to make submissions backing the V8 race and "show Auckland how its done".
Mr Blumsky however failed to see this advertising campaign as a clearly partisan call to arms for motor sports enthusiasts, instead preferring to think of it as a public service.
“The advertising campaign that ran on the radio, what it did was that it identified where it was that people could make submissions? If you listen to the ads you would have heard that they actually indicated where people could make submissions and gave the website address of the [Wellington] City Council. That would have helped both good and bad I suppose! People wouldn’t have been aware that there was consultation going on if we hadn’t done it,” he said.
The advertising campaign used funds from the V8 supporters club kitty. When asked to name some of these publicly spirited folks who had helped raise awareness during the submission stage (between March and April) Mr Blumsky was somewhat reticent citing privacy reasons.
He did point out that there were no businesses such as major hotels or bars behind the campaign just “supporters”.
“There were no businesses behind the campaign it was a V8 supporters club and all sorts of supporters made donations of all sizes to the supporters club and we used some of that funding to advertise.”
If necessary this strictly confidential list would be opened to the inquisitorial eyes of some V8 opponents – so long as they were Wellington City Councillors.
“We have made it clear we’d show the list to the [Wellington City] Council because I think Jack Ruben questioned how many names we had,” Mr Blumsky said.
Meanwhile, despite being a National Party candidate, Mr Blumsky’s view of the free-market appear to be somewhat less doctrinaire than his boss, Dr Don Brash.
Mr Blumsky pointed out that the V8 race probably couldn’t proceed without millions of dollars of ratepayer’s money as a subsidy.
“In the big wide world there’s an expectation that you should make a contribution, and I think the council papers have indicated that there was a benefit to the city and so there is an expectation there is a contribution that needs to be made,” he said.
Much like the moustachioed military genius Lord Kitchener, Mr Blumsky considered everyone must do his or her bit. ‘Your city needs your cash’ might have been an alternate catch-cry for supporters of the V8 race it seems.
Because Mr Blumsky considered the race was a public good he considered the asking price (approximately $23 million dollars over seven years) was a small one to pay - even for those small and large businesses who would be adversely affected by the race.
Mr Blumsky’s years in Local Government have seen him develop a fantastic front forward defensive technique to journalistic probity, and frustrated by Mr Blumsky’s beautiful technique in cracking loose questions to the ropes Scoop unleashed a barrage of bouncers to try to make things interesting.
Scoop: Should retailers adversely affected get compensation?
Mark Blumsky: Well it is the same thing when you have to do your drains and your pipes. Sometimes the bigger good is what you focus on and the longer term good is what you focus on. We’ve always every so often had to dig up pipes and unfortunately that affects business but at the end of the day people know it’s a bloody good thing putting new pipes in.
Scoop: Speaking of pipes I heard the Wellington City Council was thinking of cutting back on keeping toilets open?
Mark Blumsky: News to me mate, I wouldn’t have a clue!
Scoop: So you don’t follow council business?
Mark Blumsky: No – I read the newspaper, I don’t get copies of reports I read the newspaper.
Scoop: You’re standing for National, in the National Party will you be pushing to increase income tax to pay for more economic development?
Mark Blumsky: There is a very healthy tax take now. What I’ll be doing is looking at is the best way to cut that up!
Scoop: But you don’t think that there is enough tax taken by the Wellington City Council to pay for the V8s?
Mark Blumsky: Wellington City council doesn’t take tax.
Scoop: Well the rates then – so you don’t regard rates as a tax?
Mark Blumsky: Rates are rates there’s always a debate that goes about whether the rates are a tax and should you put GST on the rates - but we won’t go there today.
Indeed not. And Scoop was consequently left none the wiser on this not inconsequential question.
Mr Blumsky had played a blinder so far; the debate had raged for easily five minutes and there was now little left in Scoop's armoury besides the report prepared by Victoria University economics whiz Martin Lally.
Reading this report must have been, as the Sopranos would say ‘emotional’ for Mr Blumsky. Its cold-hearted economic logic flayed an earlier positive report prepared by Mcdermott Miller for the Wellington City Council. To a V8 champion like Mr Blumsky revisiting this report must have been like revisiting the time an elder sibling ripped Mr Ted apart with a blunt pocketknife - but it had to be mentioned.
In keeping with the vague cricketing analogy that has been running throughout this V8 debate – Mr Blumsky went for the ‘Doctor’.
“Martin has made some huge presumptions, for example he says that the city has 70% of accommodation [in use] during the weekdays and he then presumes that there is probably 70% of accommodation [in use] at the weekend as well. If Martin went and looked he’d find that Friday, Saturday and Sundays are very empty in the city. So his whole presumption is out the window. When I saw that I then stopped reading!”
It was a strong finish from Mr Blumsky, a big hit indeed on Mr Lally’s report. However in the interests of fairness Scoop contacted Mr Lally to see if he could catch Mr Blumsky on the boundary. Here is his response to Mr Blumsky’s criticism of his report.
Martin Lally Responds
Martin Lally: I don’t actually state that the occupancy rate is 70% on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. What I state is that the occupancy rate in April is about 70% and I obtained that figure from statistics New Zealand. If I could obtain information about Friday Saturday and Sunday then I would be able to generate more reliable figures. But my report very clearly states and I will quote from it
“Even allowing for the possibility that the occupancy rate is lower over weekends, and that some of the visitors reflected in the normal occupancy rate might be displaced to another date (when spare capacity is available), it is clear that not all of the potential additional visitors can be accommodated in Wellington City commercial accommodation.
The bottom line here is that Mcdermott Miller have done their calculation on the basis that the normal occupancy rate over Friday, Saturday and Sunday is 0%. Mr Blumsky must know that the correct figure is something greater than 0% therefore Mcdermott Miller’s estimate of benefit is too high. Precisely by how much they are too high I’m not in a position to comment on because I’m not aware of the available statistics. But if Mcdermott Miller were paid tens of thousands of dollars to produce their report one might have expected that they may have gone and researched the issue and generated sensible numbers.