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John MacDonald: SailGP - Auckland's loss has to be Canterbury's gain

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 23 Nov 2023, 12:24pm
Photo: Ricardo Pinto/SailGP
Photo: Ricardo Pinto/SailGP

John MacDonald: SailGP - Auckland's loss has to be Canterbury's gain

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Thu, 23 Nov 2023, 12:24pm

Forget about the Commonwealth Games. We need to start campaigning to get another global sporting event in Canterbury.

Can I take you back to Monday March 20. So just over eight months ago.

It was the Monday after that brilliant weekend when we had two days of the SailGP yacht racing on Lyttelton Harbour.

Remember that? The weather was spectacular. People in the official fanzone said they’d had a great time. And truckloads of people were calling up saying how they’d watched the racing from spots on both sides of the harbour.

Some of them had even been on the boats that were on the water parked up around the edges of the race course.

So it was held over two days. The Saturday and the Sunday. And, on the first day, we decided to go over to the peninsula and, I remember when we got to Charteris Bay, we could see that if we just went a little bit further we’d find a prime spot.

And we did. We got to the turn-off down James Drive, I think it’s called - just before the main part of Diamond Harbour - and snaked our way down to a little area between the houses called the Coastal Cliff Reserve.

That was on the Saturday. And it was chocker with people. There was even someone with a set of speakers playing the live commentary.

And, when the racing started from that side of the harbour, I was blown away and any pre-conceived ideas I’d had about SailGP just being another thing for the hoi-polloi - well, they went out the window and I was hooked.

Which is why we went back to the same spot to watch the Sunday races.

And then, the next day on the show - on the Monday - we were all pretty much in agreement that it had been a brilliant event and how great it was to have something like this happening here after all the events we’d missed out on because of the quakes and Covid.

So what about this news then in the last 24 hours that the New Zealand leg of next year’s Sail GP can’t be held in Auckland, as it was going to be, because of an issue with the site the organisers wanted to use for the official spectator or fan zone?

The SailGP crowd wanted to use an area at Wynyard Point. Problem is, there used to be tanks there that stored fuel and so the land is considered to be contaminated and it’s going through a remediation process.

And, because of all that, it’s not safe to use. And it won’t be safe to use in time for next year’s event.

So the SailGP people have said that if they can’t have the spectator zone there, they’re not interested in racing in Auckland.

Do you hear an opportunity knocking? Because I do.

I see SailGP is saying that it still wants to have a New Zealand leg next year. So it’s not pulling the plug completely. And I reckon it would be a no-brainer to bring the event back to Lyttelton.

I seem to recall them saying that they’d be back here the year after next - in 2025 - once Auckland had had its turn. And who’s to say that somewhere other than Lyttelton would also be a great location?

But we’re nearly into December and the racing is due to happen in March. So, what’s that, three-to-four months away. And, if Auckland’s been planning since 2021 to have the racing there next year, do you really think anywhere else in the country - other than here - could get itself organised in time?

Of course not!

ChristchurchNZ is being pretty quiet on it but it’s understood that it will be pushing to have the event here again next year. And so it should.

Because, aside from the massive feel-good factor, a whole lot of money poured into the region over those two days back in March.

You might remember that ChristchurchNZ and Sail GP didn’t quite agree on exactly how much money it put into the economy. Sail GP reckoned the total visitor spend was $13.9 million. ChristchurchNZ thought it was more likely to be around the $4 million mark. But whatever it was, not to be sneezed at.

There is no way anywhere else in the country could get itself organised in time. And there is no way we should miss out on having that fantastic event here again. Auckland’s loss has to be our gain.

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