TVNZ says it has had no approach from SkyCity to buy its land
for the proposed convention centre, contrary to the Prime
Minister's assurances to Parliament yesterday.
The state broadcaster also ruled out any commercial
arrangement with the casino company.
TVNZ's position is in contrast to statements by John Key to
Parliament yesterday when he was quizzed over what
discussions he and his staff had with SkyCity about TVNZ's
Mr Key told Parliament the casino had worked out it needed
more land. The larger design came after Mr Key's instruction
to "think outside the box" resulted in a design for much
larger convention centre.
Mr Key said he was aware "if Skycity was to build a larger
convention centre than the original one they wanted, at some
point I was aware that they would need to acquire land".
He said: "It is pretty straightforward. Skycity, after it
decided it would be prepared to enter an expression of
interest process to have a larger convention centre, went off
to its architects. Its architects designed such a thing,
realised they needed more land, worked out who owned the
land, and approached Television New Zealand."
Mr Key was quizzed over how an approach could be made without
the TVNZ board being aware of it. He responded: " I cannot
speak for the Television New Zealand board, but I am finding
it reasonably hard to believe that Television New Zealand
entered a commercial agreement with Skycity to sell land that
it owned, and it did so without its board knowing."
TVNZ spokeswoman Megan Richards told the New Zealand Herald
on a number of occasions last year there had been no approach
by SkyCity for the land and no deal had been done.
Today, she said the position had not changed. "We have had no
approach from SkyCity. We have no commercial arrangement with
SkyCity. If we were to be approached by SkyCity we would have
to consider it on its merits."
She said there were portions of land which TVNZ might
consider it could sell and others which it would not. She
said SkyCity had historically expressed an interest but not
in recent years and never in relation to the proposed
International Convention Centre.
Mr Key was questioned by NZ First leader Winston Peters, who
accused him of a "secret side-deal in favour of his mates at
Mr Peters said TVNZ's board had heard nothing of land being
sold and asked if Mr Key had promised the casino he would
"privatise TVNZ's assets" as part of the deal.
Mr Key responded by saying a lack of knowledge might show "
board process needs to be improved, and maybe the
mixed-ownership model would work for it". He added there were
no plans to sell TVNZ or change its structure.
The casino's desire for land emerged in the Auditor-General's
report into the proposed deal. In August 2010, then-economic
development minister Gerry Brownlee told asked the casino if
it was able to get more land for a bigger convention centre.
The report linked the bigger design to the Gambling Act
changes the casino wanted, stating: "SkyCity recalls the
Minister indicating at the meeting that the Government's
willingness to consider regulatory reform depended on SkyCity
meeting the requirements of a bigger convention centre on a
In September 2010, the casino produced a design showing more
land was needed, telling the Government it wanted it to buy
the land for the project.
- David Fisher of the New Zealand Herald