Just spotted this article from Stuff on the spending that has taken place during the Rugby World Cup. Paymark, who cover about 75% of all credit card transactions in the country, have found that spending on cards during the tournament "was up by $195 million." I don't know precisely what this phrase means, but I assume it means that spending is up by $195m on last year's figures for the same period. Of course, the first Christchurch earthquakes was during this period last year, so spending was particularly depressed at that time. It stands to reason that domestic spending was likely to rebound at some stage - perhaps the tournament and the performances of the All Blacks were a catalyst?
Of that $195m, the amount spent by tourists was $70m up on the same period last year. What, only $70m? Yes, $70m is 10% of $700m. or $700m with the decimal point moved one place to the left. Obviously it is early days, and this is by no means a complete measure of spending, but it is pretty clear that the impact of spending by overseas visitors would appear to be quite a bit less than initially projected. Of course, projected economic impacts were gross, not net, which are the figures of particular interest.
The net change in spending is where we see changes in things like the tax take (GST, etc), which are listed in the expected benefits from the tournament. Gross figures are all well and good, but they are very difficult to substantiate or refute. Literature on previous mega events pretty much says the same thing - that the realised economic impacts are highly likely to be significantly less than initial projections.
If the best case scenario eventuates, and the event costs the taxpayer $26m (that is, 2/3 of $39m), then to be economically justified, we should see additional economic benefits of at least $26m. Of course, as has been reported, the costs of the tournament to local, regional and central government are quite a bit larger than $39m. Thus we should expect to see substantial benefits to make the tournament worthwhile. Will we? Time (and research) will tell.