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America's Cup: Mayor insists all three base options are still alive

by Richard Gladwell, Sail-World.com/nz 21 Feb 2018 17:39 PST 22 February 2018
Emirates Team NZ hauled out in front of their base constructed of containers on Day 2 of the 35th America's Cup regatta, Bermuda, May 27, 2017 © Richard Gladwell

More surprise moves in the brouhaha over the plans for the America's Cup bases in Auckland.

Former Mayor and Councillor, Christine Fletcher has queried the Minutes of the meeting of the Governing Body (full 21-member Council). Her stance prompted the Council CEO to say he was foreshadowing a two-week extension to the period to be allowed for Submissions on the Resource Consent currently underway.

Councillor Fletcher opened her comments by querying whether the Minutes of the December 14 Meeting which approved the proposal known as Wynyard Basin, were incorrect, or if the Mayor had exceeded his delegated authority around the America's Cup base proposal approved by Council.

Fletcher has strong credentials, being the only member of the current Council to have visited an America's Cup outside New Zealand, attending the 2013 Match in San Francisco. She also worked in the family business Lees Marine earlier in her career, and lived through the dark days of the 25% Boat Tax in the mid-eighties. The former MP was Mayor of Auckland during the development of the Viaduct Harbour project and the 2000 America's Cup.

She noted that there was nothing on the day's Agenda for a report back on the current situation. That was a reference to the state of play of the revised America's Cup base plan issued by the Minister for Economic Development in the Labour-led Government. David Parker's so-called "Hybrid" plan was released last Wednesday, and was followed an hour later by a revised plan from Emirates Team New Zealand, which involved a reduced footprint for the bases and reduced to accommodate seven teams.

In the media release that accompanied the Minister's plan, frequent reference was made to comments attributed to Mayor Phil Goff, giving the impression that he had switched Council's support in favour of the "Hybrid" plan and had deserted the Council's considered and confirmed option.

Goff backed away smartly from that perception, saying that the three parties (Government, Council and Emirates Team NZ) were still in negotiation and that two meetings had been held to give Councillors progress reports on the unfolding situation. "The negotiations are at this moment ongoing and looking at a number of different options."

"Our starting position in those negotiations, was as moved by the Governing Body [on December 14, 2017], and that was our starting position in those negotiations", he empahsised. "Other parties have then bought in new positions, new information and the negotiation has to have some degree of flexibility to proceed.

"We have of course lodged [on January 15, 2018] the Resource Consent around the original preference of Council. But some things have changed along the way. Councillors have been invited to meetings where we've explained Stolthaven moving [off the Wynyard Point area several years ahead of their normal end of lease date], an option opening up that might have been cheaper, but still based on the Wynyard Basin. Team NZ has yet another option we're examining at the moment", he added.

"There is no completion to that [negotiation] process, but when there is it will come back here [to the Governing Body]."

Goff was adamant that he, and the CEO, had stayed within the delegation and authorities given to him on December 14, 2017. That position was approved in a sometimes fiery meeting by a vote of 12-3 with three abstentions. During that meeting Minister Parker, who was in South America at the time, communicated with one Councilor in the Meeting by txt. Parker urged the meeting to leave his preferred option in the running. A few minutes later the Council resoundingly rejected that request.

"We are in a tricky place that we do not have an agreed option that all three parties in this negotiation have signed up to," reported Auckland Council CEO, Stephen Town this morning. "Should that be different to the Wynyard Basin then that would come back to the Governing Body to move away from the Wynyard Basin option in a formal manner. We are not in a position to confirm that yet because the negotiations are continuing.

"We are mindful that the Submission for the currently notified suite of Consents concludes on February 28 and while this is not an announcement, this is a foreshadowing that the applicant may well seek to have that submission date extended because we will not have concluded negotiations by Wednesday of next week.

"So there might be an Extraordinary Governing Body Meeting before the next scheduled meeting in March. That depends on the progress that we are able to make as one of the parties of the three that are trying to negotiate an agreed compromise."

Councillor Fletcher said she had been surprised to see the media release from the Minister refer to "deals" and that implied that "parties were working together".

Goff claimed that the media statement "was not signalled as a deal. It said explicitly that agreement had not yet been reached with Team New Zealand."

Goff added that "Team New Zealand have come up with some 11th-hour suggestions that I think are worth looking at."

He said that the time they are looking at teams arriving is between August to October 2019. However, they could only work from information in that regard from Team NZ as to how many teams would enter and their arrival dates. "I don't think Team NZ have certainty around that information either", he added.

"We are working through the process, I think the parties are working in good faith, and yes it is taking longer than I would have liked. But it is better that we get it right and meet the needs of the parties rather than their desires."

Despite an attempt to shut down the discussion, Councillor Fletcher asked the Mayor to confirm that negotiations were continuing with all of the parties. "The negotiation is between the Crown, the Council and Emirates Team NZ," he responded. He advised that there had been recent communications between all parties and that it was being dealt with at an "officials level rather than an elected representatives level, at this point."

Sail-World's earlier legal advice was that if a change was inserted into an existing Resource Consent - that could be done only if the land area used was identical and didn't increase in size. Minister Parker's last published Hybrid proposal involves the take over of a temporary car park used by ASB that was not included in the current Resource Consent application. Sail-World was told that the first the ASB heard of the plan to put three double bases in their carpark, was when they read the news in the media.

It would seem that the Hybrid proposal cannot successfully morph into the current Consent application.

Team New Zealand's so-called "11th Hour" proposal incorporates some elements contained in the current application for Wynyard Basin - being the already Council agreed 75-metre extensions to Halsey Street and Hobson Wharves. The team's proposal drops any requirement for the use of land on Wynyard Point or Wynyard Wharf. On that basis, it can be morphed into the existing Resource Consent application without the need to hit system reset on the current application.

The Team New Zealand proposal should be significantly cheaper than the Wynyard Basin proposal - the team claims it is $50million cheaper.

It is also the simplest proposal of the three.

In its delivery, the ETNZ plan should also be faster and cleaner as it is new construction in an area where construction was undertaken pre-2000 and the Halsey Street wharf has been assessed as being in excellent condition. That would indicate that in terms of financial cost and the ability to deliver bases within the required timeframe, the Team New Zealand proposal is the superior one of the three.

In the end-game the trade-off will come between dollars and delivery dates, with the options using Wynyard Point expected to be more expensive due to decontamination costs to the Council and the risk on timelines associated with those sites.

In addition there is no legacy use for superyacht servicing with the Wynyard Point only plans - a key point for the expansion of the New Zealand marine industry between America's Cups and beyond.

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