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'Sky City given unfair advantage' - Shearer

Wednesday 20 Feb 2013 5:08 a.m.

In exchange for a law change allowing up to 500 more pokie machines in its casino, Sky City is going to pay for the convention centre (file)

In exchange for a law change allowing up to 500 more pokie machines in its casino, Sky City is going to pay for the convention centre (file)

Opposition parties are rejecting Prime Minister John Key's assertion that the Government has been "totally vindicated" over the way it ran the tender for Auckland's national convention centre.

The contract is going to Sky City and ministers are keen to close the deal after Assistant Auditor-General Phillipa Smith on Tuesday reported there were deficiencies but no "inappropriate considerations" influencing the process.

Mr Key says the report totally refutes allegations by the Greens and Labour that Sky City was given unfair preference.

"It clears the way to close the deal, absolutely, and it's a good deal for New Zealand," he said.

Labour leader David Shearer says that's an insult to anyone's intelligence.

"The report has made stinging criticisms, including that Government officials worked closely with Sky City to help it put together a bid, and were conducting preliminary negotiations while palming off other bidders," he said.

"This is evidence Sky City was given unfair advantage."

The Green Party, which asked for the inquiry, says Mr Key is clinging to a single finding in the report to claim he's in the clear.

"He is ignoring the vast majority of the report which was highly damning of a flawed and unbalanced process," said co-leader Metiria Turei.

NZ First leader Winston Peters is suggesting people who gave evidence to the inquiry "clammed up" so the report wouldn't criticise the Government.

"This was a preferential deal offered to only one business – all the rest were shut out of the highly advantageous pokie deal, and that's why it's so sleazy," he said.

The inquiry looked at the process the Ministry of Economic Development followed in 2010 when it chose Sky City to build the $350 million Auckland centre.

In exchange for a law change allowing up to 500 more pokie machines in its casino, Sky City is going to pay for the convention centre.

The report says there were a "range of deficiencies" in the advice provided to the Government, and in the steps taken leading up to the decision to enter negotiations with Sky City.

NZN

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