After a delay in negotiations, the New Zealand Government signed a hotly contested deal with SKYCITY Entertainment Group Limited earlier this month, formalising the construction and operation of the long-awaited New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC) in Auckland.

The complete project and licensing agreement enacts the terms of the Heads of Agreement, unveiled in May, for SKYCITY to design, build, own and operate the NZICC. The three-year construction period will commence in late 2014 with a target completion date of September 30, 2017 and a total budget of NZ$402 million.

SKYCITY Entertainment Group chief executive Nigel Morrison said, “The NZICC will deliver significant economic growth, jobs, high value international tourism and become a catalyst for further tourism and entertainment development in the ‘Victoria’ precinct and the Auckland CBD. SKYCITY is fully funding the project, meaning that the NZICC will be delivered without requiring funding from taxpayers or Auckland ratepayers”.

In return for SKYCITY’s capital investment, the Government has agreed to a 35-year extension of the group’s Auckland Casino Licence, to June 2048, as well as an additional 230 pokie machines and 40 more gaming tables.

New Zealand Treasury officials expressed strong concerns about gambling in a briefing paper to cabinet ministers and ministry officials in January 2012, where it was declared that “public costs will only go to private gain” once the initial costs of constructing the centre are paid off.

The NZICC will feature at least 8,600m2 of exhibition space, a dedicated plenary facility to host up to 3,500 delegates and 3,500m2 of dedicated meeting/breakout spaces.

“Since the announcement of the NZICC, there have been more than 50 enquiries from around the world for major conventions and exhibitions from 2017 onwards with more than 90,000 potential delegates, excluding accompanying partners. Such a level of immediate interest clearly demonstrates the significant potential demand for such a facility in New Zealand and is proof that the NZICC will attract high‐value events,” Mr Morrison said.