Monday, 6 February 2012

Hamilton headache: Claudelands claims 'overly optimistic'

This just in from the New Zealand Herald... the $68m Claudelands Events Centre in Hamilton is facing a $1.5m deficit in its first year of operation (and projected deficits until 2014/5) and questions are rightly being asked after the initial projection was for a $1.1m surplus in its business case. It is a sorry state of affairs, but by no means an isolated event. Hamilton ratepayers don't have to look too far to see a similar story with the V8 supercar race a prominent example. Unfortunately the same story has been repeated all around the world - overstated measures of benefit, understated measures of cost and a projected bottom line that is much more palatable than what actually eventuates. I wonder if the $30,000 cost of the peer review currently being conducted into the issue was included in the forecast as well? The good news: it isn't going to hit ratepayers in the pocket, according to the mayor. Unfortunately, even if rates don't rise, the need to bail out a facility shortfall will certainly result in funds being re-routed from other city services - and this will hit ratepayers. Is bailing out the Events Centre the best use of these funds?
There was a particularly interesting comment in the article above attributed to Councillor Dave Macpherson:
...the council had been informed by trained professionals who were good "talkers and persuaders".
"I think it's sort of an events industry culture; seeing things through rose coloured glasses," he said.
Hmm. Did the V8 experience not ring any alarm bells? Heck, didn't the experience of the Canberra V8 supercars in the early 2000's at least raise some eyebrows? What about the volumes of research that have questioned the accuracy of claims of economic benefit, of which this paper (and also this one) make important contributions. Forget the rose coloured glasses - put some prescription lenses on, read things carefully and ask serious questions.

There is still a small glimmer of short-term hope on the horizon as the Sonny Bill Williams boxing show heads to the venue on Wednesday for his NZ title fight versus Clarence Tillman. Will Hamiltonians get in behind their boxing chief?
UPDATE: They're trying to drum up support with a bit of push and shove in the pre-fight weigh in.


  1. The Herald story is damning: Hamilton Council told the consultant to juke the stats.

    1. It sure is. There is no question that these projects are inherently political - for the Council to be shocked really does make one wonder.