Tak­ing a stand on SkyCity deal

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By DANIELLE STREET

A mother con­cerned about the reper­cus­sions of the Govern­ment’s deal with SkyCity to build an in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tion cen­tre has staged a week of protests out­side the casino.

Char­lotte Fisher, 53, along with sev­eral friends, has used ev­ery lunchtime this week to make a stand against the deal.

‘‘For me it started off with the un­fair­ness of the deal. The ten­der process was not fair,’’ the West­mere artist says.

‘‘It then goes on to the fact that con­fer­ence cen­tres are big empty places and what this deal means is that peo­ple with gam­bling ad­dic­tions pay for a big empty space.’’

Ms Fisher says there are al­ready al­ter­na­tives for hold­ing con­ven­tions such as the Viaduct Event Cen­tre.

‘‘We are small city and should use what we’ve got.’’

The protests co­in­cide with the deal sign­ing between the Govern­ment and SkyCity, set to take place on Sun­day af­ter a two-week ex­ten­sion.

The two par­ties must de­cide on the de­sign, build­ing and op­er­a­tion of the $402 mil­lion con­ven­tion cen­tre.

Leg­is­la­tion to give ef­fect to the agree­ment will be in­tro­duced to Par­lia­ment once it has been fi­nalised.

As part of the fund­ing deal, SkyCity can have 230 ex­tra poker ma­chines, 40 gam­ing ta­bles and its li­cence ex­tended un­til 2048.

The con­ven­tion cen­tre is ex­pected to give the econ­omy $90 mil­lion a year and cre­ate 800 on­go­ing jobs.

But pro­tester Lucy Treep says peo­ple will pay for pri­vate gain.

‘‘The money that is made will be go­ing into pri­vate hands, yet the pub­lic will be pay­ing for the fall­out, which is the in­crease in gam­bling ad­dic­tion.’’

An­other pro­tester, who does not want to be named, says he has wit­nessed the de­struc­tion caused by his fa­ther’s gam­bling.

‘‘They say that pokies are like steal­ing candy from a baby but it’s ac­tu­ally worse,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s lit­er­ally tak­ing nu­tri­tion out of some baby’s mouth while their mother or fa­ther is be­ing preyed on by these ma­chines that they are hooked on.’’

Ear­lier this week SkyCity said that fa­cial-recog­ni­tion technology would be tri­alled at the Auck­land casino in a bid to stop prob­lem gam­bling.

The sys­tem is part of a con­ces­sion deal between the casino and Auck­land mayor Len Brown, who is in favour of the con­ven­tion cen­tre and the jobs it will cre­ate.

‘‘The po­ten­tial is here for [the technology] to be a real break­through for prob­lem gam­blers,’’ Mr Brown says.

But Green party gam­bling spokes­woman Denise Roche says it is an am­bu­lance at the bot­tom of the gam­bling cliff.

‘‘Fa­cial recog­ni­tion technology is a clas­sic case of shut­ting the sta­ble door af­ter the horse has bolted and lost all its money on pokie ma­chines,’’ she says.

SkyCity says it is com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing the safest poss- ible en­vi­ron­ment cus­tomers.

‘‘Our harm-min­imi­sa­tion pro­gramme is al­ready the most com­pre­hen­sive of any gam­bling op­er­a­tor in New Zealand.

‘‘We are com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment of our pro­gramme that will en­sure we are al­ways at the lead­ing edge of harm min­imi­sa­tion.’’

Sub­ject to the pass­ing of en­abling leg­is­la­tion and a three-year con­struc­tion pe­riod the con­ven­tion cen­tre is ex­pected to open in late 2017.

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Photo: DANIELLE STREET

Whats the deal?: Lucy Treep, Char­lotte Fisher and a pro­tester who did not want to be named have taken part in a week-long protest against the Govern­ment’s deal with SkyCity for a new con­ven­tion cen­tre.

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