Sadly SkyCity casino looks set to get its way. The promise of a new convention centre will be enough to secure it a 27-year extension to its licence and the right to have an extra 230 pokies and up to 52 more gaming tables.
Throughout the debate over the wisdom of this deal the Alliance Party has waited in vain for somebody to ask the question “Why do we need a convention centre anyway?”
A convention centre will bring visitors to Auckland. But most of the jobs it will create will be in the service sector; in shops, restaurants, and accommodation. In other words low paid, casual, and not family friendly; with split shifts and often spanning weekends and public holidays. Even an experienced barista barely earns the benchmark $18.40 per hour living wage.
Where is the benefit to New Zealand in creating more low paid jobs that have to be subsidized by the taxpayer through the likes of accommodation supplements and family tax credits so that people can make ends meet?
New Zealand needs a high wage economy. We need decent, well paid, family friendly jobs that generate government income not government handouts.
We need a strong manufacturing base producing things that people need, not a steady stream of air travelers zipping in and out for a few days to attend conferences.
And we need to think of the planet and the future. Air travel is one of the biggest culprits in global warming. Basing our economy around economic activities that depend on increasing air travel is not sustainable or desirable. It is quite likely that in the not too distant future big conferences will be outmoded; frowned upon for their environmental impact and rendered unnecessary by modern communication technology.
To the Alliance this issue is simple, we don’t need a big new convention centre desperately enough to justify more pokie machines and more gaming tables at SkyCity. We sincerely hope that common sense will eventually prevail and politicians will walk away from this deal.