Not another cent of public money should go towards the America’s Cup until we get to the bottom of what is going on here with Team New Zealand.
Let’s be clear about something: this is a question of what taxpayer and ratepayer money has been spent on. Forget these allegations being thrown around of spying and scams and safety on the harbour. They are distractions. They are not what this is really about.
This is really about millions and millions of dollars of taxpayer and ratepayer money and what it’s been spent on.
It’s important to understand there are two different parties here: the organisers of the America’s Cup, called America’s Cup Events Ltd - we’ll call them ACE - and then Team NZ, the yacht team competing.
We as taxpayers and Auckland ratepayers have poured millions into this event. $250 million already, another $20 million due soon.
What’s worrying MBIE is that money we gave to ACE for the event, has ended up with Team NZ.
So the questions are: how much money did ACE the organisers give to Team NZ?
Why did they give it to Team NZ? And is it legit?
Now Team NZ says it’s legit. It points to a $3 million bill for example. It says it billed the America’s Cup organisers $3 million for work its staff were doing for the event. It says the real bill should’ve been $6 million but that would’ve been too pricey for the organisers, so the implication is Team NZ gave a half-price discount and only charged $3 million.
MBIE though is worried about that $3 million bill. It says that money was transferred to Team New Zealand for costs ‘not in relationship to the management and delivery of the events’.
The whistle-blowers - aka spies - are worried enough to have gone to MBIE with concerns about money.
Now, the forensic accountants have been through. There is a draft report. It’s obviously worrying enough for MBIE and Auckland Council to write to the bosses of the America’s Cup organisers and Team New Zealand and say they are ‘extremely concerned’ at the way the money is being used, and has made a thinly veiled threat to not pay the outstanding $20 million.
Now, this event has to go ahead. We’ve poured too much money into it not to.
But, before any more money gets poured into this, we need to know that it’s being used properly and that the right people are in charge of this event.