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Government runneth away with cup

Government runneth away with cup

Green MP Mike Ward questioned the Government's $5.6m gift to America's Cup syndicate Team New Zealand, arguing the money will be better spent on water safety programmes in desperate need of support.

Yesterday, Water Safety New Zealand revealed it could only fund the Swim for Life programme in eight out of 17 geographical regions due to funding difficulties. Swim for Life aims to teach all children to swim at least 200m by the age of 12.

"The Government has been very hasty in making this decision. Other groups are crying out for help to provide services of far more immediate value," said Mr Ward, the Green Party Sports, Fitness and Leisure spokesperson.

"For the Government to wade in now, given that the next cup is not until 2007 and rule changes recently announced seem to firmly establish the Cup as a race for rich and powerful moguls, seems highly premature.

"Yet $5.6m would go far to ensure our children can all swim 200m, the distance often needed to save themselves in the event of a boating accident."

Mr Ward said the Government should work with stakeholders to establish the best practise for the next challenge, not just give money to the syndicate.

"Leadership shown by the Government is admirable but funding is certainly premature at this stage. The Government should bring together Team New Zealand, the boat-building industry and the yachting sector to make sure our talent is put to best use.

"The sponsors now have an opportunity to hang back and not commit to the next campaign, and are not forced to compete with other potential sponsors eyeing up Team New Zealand with its significant international profile.

"I can't think of why big international sponsors wouldn't see Team New Zealand, sure to attract significant attention in the next regatta, as a great opportunity for sponsorship and jump at the chance to promote themselves at one the world's biggest sporting events.

"Team New Zealand have a history of innovation and getting the best of their skills and talent. I can't see how chucking Government money for sponsors so soon after the last regatta fits with this cup-winning philosophy."

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