By Metiria Turei
If the National Government wants to build a national convention centre in Auckland, the full costs and benefits of the project have to stack up. The tender process must be fair and transparent and the community needs to have a say. A couple of months ago I sent a request to the Auditor-General asking them to review the tender process for the national convention centre SkyCity deal because neither I, nor most Aucklanders, have confidence that it has been fair, transparent or properly costed.
We are really pleased that the Auditor General has this week decided to carry out that investigation. The Auditor-General has been considering our request for almost two months now. They don’t launch investigations lightly. Having looked into the background they are concerned enough about the process to devote time and resources into investigating.
We want a conference centre; we want the jobs that will come with it. But we also want open and honest negotiations to make sure we get the best deal, one that doesn’t needlessly sign away our democratic laws or cause harm to Auckland families and business.
What John Key and Steven Joyce don’t seem to understand is that when they are working with the public purse and public law they just can’t do the wheeling and dealing that they are used to. They have to take into account the other costs imposed on society - that is the responsibility of public service. But this deal does not consider the huge social and financial costs of increased gambling that will result from trading in our gambling law.
For some reason the Government has given SkyCity a privileged position in letting them know that that New Zealand’s laws are up for sale, at the right price.
There is no clear reason, to us, as to why the Government are being so cagey about signing the deal before the Auditor-General’s decision is made.
If they did sign prematurely, the public could be exposed to liability from legal challenges by other bidders who missed out in the process, and also from SkyCity who could rightly feel they'd been led up the garden path. The wisest course, in the best interests of the community, is to hold off on the deal until it’s confirmed the process has been sound. There is still an ethical argument to be made about this deal, but we also need to be assured that the process has been correct.
Four out of five Aucklanders don't like the convention centre deal as it stands, and don't want more pokies in their city. What we need is a fair and equitable tender process so that we can get the best deal for New Zealand and a great new convention centre we can all be proud of.
Metiria Turei is Co-leader for the Green Party