The America’s Cup, like Apec, won’t bring riches to the country

by Bill Ralston / 14 November, 2017
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The America's Cup on display to the public in Napier. Photo/Getty Images

The tills will be ringing when the America’s Cup and Apec come to town. Won’t they?

Hallelujah! 2021 is coming, when we will all be rich and content. That is the year New Zealand is likely to host the America’s Cup regatta and, as well, Auckland gets to host the year-long jamboree of Apec, the political talkfest. The economic spin-off from these two events is said to be enormous. I have seen figures of half a billion dollars deriving from the America’s Cup, and 12 months of international ministerial junketing to New Zealand is bound to generate hundreds of millions in ill-spent foreign taxpayer dollars. We will all be rolling in loot in four years’ time.

Well, that is what we’re being told. Except I note that party pooper Ashley Church from the Property Institute has warned we are likely to be disappointed. He points out that during the 2011 Rugby World Cup, 133,000 fans visited here and spent some $387 million, but there was very little economic impact in the hospitality and accommodation sectors outside Auckland’s CBD.

What? How could that be? Church speculates it was because of the “displacement” theory: visitors who might otherwise come here put off their plans until the event was over because they did not want to be caught up in it. So, activity associated with the event replaced activity that would have normally taken place – rather than adding to it.

It is logical-thinking people such as Church who stand in the way of us Making New Zealand Great Again. Oh, wait, New Zealand has never been “great” in the first place. Okay, Making New Zealand Quite Good Again. Shane Jones should put that on his baseball cap next time.

Actually, Church agrees with me, arguing that the puny $5 million the Government invested in the America’s Cup is still worth it “because of the way it makes us feel about ourselves as a country”.

am not sure if Apec will have the same effect. Herds of presidents, prime ministers, ministers and bureaucrats tramping through our airports for 12 months does not give us quite the same warm, fuzzy feeling that another cup win would do.

Another downside of Apec and the America’s Cup is that it should be noted that if President Trump is re-elected, we would probably get a visit from him for at least one of those events, if not both.

This is an edited version of an article first published in the July 15, 2017 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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