7 Jul 2013

Govt confident convention centre will get go ahead

6:00 am on 7 July 2013

The Government says it's confident the controversial SkyCity convention centre project will go ahead, after signing the deal in Auckland on Friday night.

The agreement will result in a $402 million convention centre being built in Auckland, in return for the SkyCity casino being allowed 230 extra gaming machines, 52 gaming tables and its licence will be extended to 2048.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce says he's confident the Government has the support it needs to pass the legislation enabling the deal to proceed.

He says he believes the centre will also be granted the resource consents it needs from the Auckland Council.

Mr Joyce says the centre will create an estimated 1000 jobs during construction and 800 jobs once it is operating.

The Green Party says the Government should not attempt to call in the resource consent process for the Skycity convention centre.

Co-leader Metiria Turei says the consent process should remain with Auckland Council, which voted last month not to support the deal.

Labour Party leader David Shearer says the Government is intent on pushing the deal through and he would be very surprised if there are major changes.

Mr Shearer says governments should reserve the right to re-examine the deal if it becomes clear it is causing social harm.

Construction is due to begin next year.

Deal includes measures to deter problem gambling

As part of the deal, SkyCity must introduce new measures to deter problem gambling.

Mr Joyce says the SkyCity casino would not have introduced these measures without a convention-centre deal.

The AUT's Gambling and Addictions Research Centre director Max Abbott says that might create some positive spinoffs.

But opponents of the deal say two-thirds of the people who seek help for problem gambling are addicted to gaming machines.

The Problem Gambling Foundation says it is disappointed the Government didn't insist on tougher harm-prevention measures as part of the deal.

The foundation's chief executive, Graeme Ramsey, says provisions to deter problem gambling don't go far enough.

He says he would have liked a mandatory pre-commitment system rather than a voluntary one.

"In other words if people have to set a limit in time or money, whatever the limit is, before they gamble, and once they reach that limit they can't continue."

Mr Ramsey says the legislation that will allow the deal to proceed still has to go through select committee, and he hopes that will result in stricter measures.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei says it's not too late to stop the Sky City convention centre being built, despite the deal being signed in Auckland on Friday night.

She says MPs should vote against the legislation.