America’s Cup: Team New Zealand holding the next regatta overseas a ‘slap in the face’

Taking the America’s Cup offshore would be a “slap in the face”, according to one of Auckland’s business leaders.

Auckland Business Chamber chief executive Michael Barnett and mayor Phil Goff both agree the public’s expectation is that racing would remain in New Zealand if Emirates Team New Zealand successfully defends the America’s cup.

Their comments come on the back of the revelation Team New Zealand has tasked a London-based sports consultancy to run a world-wide selection process aimed at holding the “most successful America’s Cup event ever seen” in 2023 or 2024.

Barnett said he believed most New Zealanders, and certainly Aucklanders, would be surprised to hear the team was looking at overseas venues.

“[Team New Zealand] have taken taxpayer money, they’ve taken ratepayer money. I think most New Zealanders would see it as a slap in the face. They’ve not been given an opportunity to get a return on investment this year,” he said.

“The least Team New Zealand could do would be give them a chance to do that.”

Emirates Team New Zealand chief executive Grant Dalton said Covid-19 and the lost revenue from this year’s tournament was the driver behind the move to look overseas because the team needed to find a way to come up with the money needed to compete again.

But Barnett said the same was true for Auckland businesses. He said hospitality and tourism businesses had bargained on being “packed” with local and international spectators but the country’s closed borders meant that hadn’t happened.

“We deserve a chance to do that,” he said. “Team New Zealand haven’t had the year they wanted and they haven’t had the audience they wanted but none of us have.”

Goff said, in a statement, he accepted the America’s Cup was run as a business but believed the general public’s expectation was that the next Cup defence would be held in Auckland.

“The public, through taxes paid to the Government and the rates paid to council, fronted up with around $250 million to enable ETNZ to host the cup in New Zealand. The Cup Village and the team bases are in the heart of the city, which raises its profile. New Zealanders have shown huge interest in the Cup, with so far over 200,000 spectators attracted to come to watch the racing,” he said.

“The council’s investment in the cup was $113m in infrastructure that will remain as a legacy for the city for the future, regardless of who wins the Cup or where it is next hosted. We did not fund the event itself as I and council believe that is not an appropriate use of rating funds.

“But having invested in that infrastructure and having made huge efforts to get it completed on time and fit for purpose, both of which objectives have been achieved, we would expect from Team New Zealand to take that into account when they decide where the cup is to be held next time, in the event they win.”

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck said events were “great attractors” for Auckland and she hoped the next defense could be held in the city.

“Furthermore, we think New Zealand will be extremely attractive as a destination and an event like this could have wider benefits for the country.”

Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash would not be drawn on the Government’s reaction to the news but instead issued a short statement.

“With the Prada Cup under way, and the America’s Cup match yet to start, it’s too early to start talking about what may or may not happen with the next event,” he said.

“We are committed to supporting America’s Cup Event Limited and Emirates Team New Zealand deliver a successful 36th America’s Cup.”

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