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Government hides truth about SkyCity deal from MPs

4 September 2013

Government hides truth about SkyCity deal from MPs

The truth about the full financial and social impact of the SkyCity convention centre deal was hidden from Government MPs who have so far voted to support it, the Green Party said today.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce today distanced himself from the official advice his Cabinet colleagues were given when deciding whether to support the deal.

"The Regulatory Impact Statement on the Convention Centre Bill left out crucial evidence from the Health Ministry – evidence that dismissed the much trumpeted harm minimisation measures as both old, and ineffective," Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei said.

“But asked in the House today for the reasons why the impact statement failed to include the Health Ministry’s gambling harm minimisation team’s expert warnings, Mr Joyce failed to take any responsibility for it.

“Serious doubts were raised by the team about the three key harm minimisation measures which Mr Joyce has repeatedly said would mitigate the harm inherent in the extra gambling opportunities given to SkyCity, but Mr Joyce doesn’t seem to think his colleagues deserved to know about those doubts.

“Health Ministry advice shows that officials warned that two of the three harm minimisation measures were already in place.

“The advice stated it was “doubtful” that voluntary pre-commitment would work, that the doubling of host responsibility staff at SkyCity was likely to have “minimal” effect and said the inclusion of focal research technology in the deal was pointless unless it specified what the technology was supposed to achieve.

“The advice blows out of the water the Government’s claims that the harm minimisation measures are both new or would mitigate the harm in the deal, but Mr Joyce won’t take responsibility for the fact that his colleagues never even knew such advice existed.

“And today we hear that the Government has induced TVNZ to move from part of its Auckland CBD land to make way for the centre, in exchange for a reduced dividend expectation.

“This is a direct cost to the New Zeeland taxpayer which Mr Joyce admitted to the House that Government MPs were not aware of when they voted to support the Convention Centre Bill.

“The fact is that the centre is going to cost more than anyone expected, both in social harms that have not even been officially factored in, and in the direct financial cost of building the centre.

“I urge all National MPs and Peter Dunne and John Banks to really scrutinise the deal and demand the full picture from John Key and Steven Joyce before they give it support at the second reading,” Mrs Turei said.

Link to the Health Ministry’s gambling harm minimisation team’s advice on the Regulatory Impact Statement:
http://www.med.govt.nz/sectors-industries/regions-cities/new-zealand-international-convention-centre-information-release/inter-departmental-correspondence-ris-bill

ENDS

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