Mike's Editorial: The Old Renovator's Curse

Mike Hosking,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 11 February 2015, 8:00a.m.
(Photo: Getty Images)
(Photo: Getty Images)

Disclosure statement: Mike Hosking has had a commercial relationship with SkyCity in the past

Seems the Prime Minister has been struck by the old renovator's curse.

MORE: SkyCity's cost blowout doesn't make sense

We’re now being told the original cost of the SkyCity convention centre is a bit more than it was originally sold to us as.

The bill was $410 million – it’s now around $470- $530 million - and guess what, SkyCity aren’t paying the extra. Well…they’re coughing up $10 million but that’s it.

So potentially we’re now up for $110 million, which in one sense is a cheap build, given up until now it was costing us nothing and all we gave away were some new pokies by way of a law change.

In another sense this should not be any sort of surprise. Renovations or new builds are always associated with cost overruns.

I have never done anything to any house I have ever owned that didn't involve something by way of a bill that came in higher than the estimate.

The cynic I suppose could suggest that SkyCity might have got the Government by the short and curlies. In offering to pay for the centre they of course suggested the best price possible so as to get Government buy-in on the law changes.
And once they got the Government on board, going back for a bit extra to an already committed concept is always easier than getting them across the line in the first place.

But that’s a cynic’s view. Let’s move on to deal with reality.

The reality remains unchanged. Auckland, and by definition New Zealand, needs an international convention centre, the fact we don’t have one makes us a back water.

A convention centre brings jobs from the day the first hammer is swung, through to the ongoing staffing of a facility that provides services to thousands.

Those thousands bring money and friends and colleagues and families, and they visit and spend money and then go tell their folks back home what a great place we are.

It drives tourism and business.

Then we get to John Key’s current point, they could force SkyCity to build for the original price.

But I come from the Louis Kahn school of thinking. Kahn, by the way, was a genius, and one of the world’s great architects. Look up his work: It’s worth it.
The Trenton Bath House, the Uni at La Hoya, the Bangladesh Parliament, he built beautiful and he built to last. It cost more than the others but it was money well spent.

This is what Key is arguing. If the Government has to cough up to avoid ugly then he’ll do it and good on him.

This is an investment and should be operated on the very simple adage that if you’re going to do something, do it properly.

Cheap isn't properly. Lord only knows the Auckland architectural landscape is festooned with the short-sighted idiots who did it cheap.

I like to think my tax money is not only wisely spent but well spent. Convention centres, places to do business and attract people are aspirational investments, and aspirational investments are almost always money well spent.

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