Monday, February 18, 2013

Sky City Government deal--is it good for NZ?


There is no doubt that John Key, our sort of popular Prime Minister, is good at making deals. His past working life would bear witness to that statement, even if I don’t have much in common with the methods he may have used. OK, I’m just not part of that particular life choice. To some he is a hero, yet other the devil incarnate. I am not a political/moralist who would judge him for the way he made his money. In my ideal world, there is room for many approaches to life.

I do however take a different view about the deal he is purported to have made with Sky City re the proposed Convention Centre. Even though he has been ‘exonerated’ by an august body from any underhand dealings, there is still a strange smell about the ramifications of this deal.

The ratepayers of Auckland will not be burdened with a debt for this new centre; something that will bring a sigh of relief after having witnessed yet another round of rate rises. That in itself will silence many critics, who base their ‘happiness levels’ on things economic rather than any strong social conscience. The 500 extra poker machines would be a small price to pay, from their point of view.

For those who witness the damage done by ‘out of control gambling, this new move will represent nothing but more suffering and social dysfunction as yet more families are torn apart by the effects of gambling. There is a good deal of evidence to show that gambling in all of its forms is a potent force in wreaking havoc in a large proportion of our families. The desperate are not the only victims; others too are drawn into the never- ending search for that big win.

We see the results in WINZ (Work and Income New Zealand) and CYFS (Child Youth and Family Services) offices as families struggle with the effects of gambling addiction. It is easy to say that if Sky City doesn’t draw in the ‘players,’ other forms of gambling will play to the crowd and the harm is simply removed to another sector. We must ask the question----is this new centre worth the carnage that will result?

Many will say that the economic benefits will outweigh any damage in the form of increased tourists spending resulting from the extra 20,000 visitors estimated to visit Auckland and the convention centre. Perhaps that argument is similar to the trickle-down theory; one that is much touted by those at the top who ‘allow’ a little wealth to flow down to the minions at the bottom. I can’t see a lot of evidence for this in our history.

I suspect the forces behind both arguments will be quite evenly split, so we are not going to see a pullback by the present Government and I believe that the Labour Party will probably go along with the plans, especially once the contract is let. The present Mayor, Len Brown seems to have sucked up to the big boys too, as he eyes other plans for the future of Auckland. Get used to the ever lengthening lines outside the City Mission; made up of the homeless and desperate. Maybe they will even move their premises---away from eyes that ‘may be offended by the sight of society’s ‘flotsam’----- Out of sight, out of mind.