Taking a stand on SkyCity deal
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.
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.