I doubt very much that the SkyCity convention centre will be hosting APEC in two years. The longer this building burns, the less likely that prospect is. And this is of course sparking concerns that we might lose APEC altogether.
But I think that’s probably a bit premature. I think there’s still a very good chance it will be here in Auckland in 2021.
The reason is there was apparently always a back up plan, just in case the convention centre wasn’t ready. The team running APEC had apparently organised a contingency plan.
Which you’d expect - this is a $300 million event.
Now what that back up plan is we don’t know yet. There’s been a fair of bit of speculation.
Problem one of course is where the meetings will be held. There’s nothing in New Zealand as big as the 4000 seat convention centre.
That was the place where the world leaders - Putin, Trump, Jingping – and their enormous delegations would meet.
What will probably happen instead is that these meeting, instead of happening in one place, will happen across Auckland City.
Some of the venues suggested are the meeting rooms at Eden Park, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, that kind of thing. It isn’t ideal but it do-able.
It’ll probably cause a bit more disruption and cost. You’ll need more security across more locations. There’ll be more motorcades as leaders try to get from one place to another, but Auckland’s going to be ground zero for disruption that week anyway.
Problem number two is finding hotel rooms. Auckland needs 14,000 rooms for that leaders’ week, which is the busiest week, and there are hotels under construction right now. The question will be whether they also are ready in time.
But look, this is still Auckland’s event. Auckland can make it happen. It’s done before; for 1999’s APEC, it put up marquees to host everyone attending. If that’s what it takes, it’s what it takes.
Nowhere else in the country has the capacity to accommodate that many people. And honestly, look at where APEC was held last year - Papua New Guinea. If PNG could do, Auckland can.