John Banks: I often hear the lament that there are too many stadiums in Auckland. It is not the case. There are just not enough events. We need to fill our stadiums with great events that attract people and make citizens feel proud of the place they call home. I have no plans whatsoever to reduce the number of stadiums across greater Auckland.I don't know about you, but I fail to swell with civic pride whenever I hear that one of the many stadia that litter the isthmus has been booked by yet another 80s AOR band doing yet another global tour. Nor do I quiver in anticipation of the World Masters Games of 2017 being held at the Waitakere Trusts Stadium. This possibility was suggested by Mayor Banks in the Banksie Bulletin, his propaganda opportunity in the Auckland City Harbour News (the paper with three names where only one would do, and two editions each week when one would be enough; this week's front page story: Man Uncovers Well). Mayor Banks' vision for a truly international city is stadium-rich. Not only does he have no plans whatsover to close any stadium, but he dreams of a new convention centre which will host the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and the Melbourne Motor Show, a long way from Melbourne.
The pressing need for more convention space is evident when one realises that the Telstraclear Pacific Events Centre Showcasing Excellence is now fully sponsored. It has an ASB Foyer, an AIAL Foyer, a Fisher and Paykel Foyer, the Lion Foundation Hall of Champions, the Genesis Theatre, the Sir Woolf Fisher Arena, the Panasonic Function Rooms, the Carter Holt Harvey Meeting Rooms, the Bayleys Board Room and the Lotto Plaza. There is no more room for private-public partnerships, enterprise agreements or revenue maximisation. It matters not how much money you have; there is not a naming right to be had. What can be done?
The new convention centre would occupy Bledisloe Wharf, currently used for some mundane purpose of trade involving ships. According to a piece in the January/February edition of Metro (not online, but then nothing of Metro is these days), Mayor Banks sees things thus: Sydney has an opera house; we will have a convention centre. Visionary, I am sure you will agree. The vision of men in suits convening on a slab of concrete at the docks will show those Australian bastards what we can do. No motor show will be safe.
It is not just about him, though. "The new international Exhibition and Convention Centre that I am committed to building will mean hundreds of jobs, improved infrastructure and benefit for local businesses. A greater Auckland Council will have a real opportunity to focus on attracting more international eyes and dollars." He goes on to note that "we will need a significant budget to compete successfully" and observes that Victoria "undoubtedly Australia's most successful events state," has an events budget of $96m, while the Auckland region gets by on a paltry $12m.
That, at the end of the day, is what it is all about: making businessmen richer while cringing culturally. It is what they call the Bilbao Effect, but we don't get a gallery or a Gehry. We will get conventions and motor shows, in yet another Jasmax shed.