America's Cup: Different players - but the arguments remain the same

Two of the first backers of the new Team New Zealand, New Zealand Minister of Sport and the America’s Cup, Trevor Mallard, (left) holds the Louis Vuitton Cup with Bob Field Chairman of Toyota NZ
Emirates Team New Zealand / Photo Chris Cameron ETNZ ©

Like many of the sailing media, Sail-World has a number of Google Alerts set up to advise of news on topics of interest. One of these is obviously the America's Cup, and into our email the other day popped this relic from 2003.

Readers will recall at the time of the recent Emirates Team NZ funding announcement that CEO, Grant Dalton advised, in little more than a quick sentence in a 40 minute presentation that one of the tentacles of the NZ Government, NZ Trade and Enterprise would again be one of the principal investors in the 2011-13 America's Cup campaign on the basis of a long-standing contract signed by the previous Government.

In the New Zealand Parliament in the run-up to the Emirates Team NZ announcement, Minister of Finance was put on the spot one Question Time, when asked if he was in favour of the $20-30 million that NZTE would stump up for the Challenge. English replied that he regarded it as a low grade spend and that if he he had his way the expenditure commitment would be dropped. However he triumphantly pointed out, he was barred from doing so because of a contract entered into by the previous then-Labour Government, and the Minister, Trevor Mallard.

(Mallard was a passionate Minister of Sport, did an excellent job, and had the foresight to ensure that the recreated Team New Zealand - following the 2003 Defence disaster - would be funded by NZTE for two campaigns.)

The following exchange during Question Time in 2005 started with a patsy question asked by a Labour MP of a Labour Cabinet Minister

America's Cup—Team New Zealand Funding

5. DAVID BENSON-POPE (NZ Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for the America's Cup: What were the factors that led to the Government’s decision to commit $5.6 million to Team New Zealand’s 2007 America’s Cup campaign?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for the America's Cup) : Securing the team for a possible challenge from which New Zealand can leverage in 2007 was the main factor. We are confident that the next campaign will provide a chance to further develop and expand trade and tourism opportunities.

David Benson-Pope: Will the Government contribute further funding for this campaign?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: The $5.6 million is an initial sum, and it will be a few months before we can confirm the final level of investment. We want to take time to consider the potential economic benefits that can be leveraged off a regatta in Europe. The final contribution will also depend on Team New Zealand’s ability to raise the vast majority of the funding from the private sector to mount a credible challenge.

Hon Murray McCully (Then Opposition, but now the current Minister of Sport): Has the Minister found it helpful in making these decisions to have available the economic study that was done of the 1999-2000 America’s Cup, which showed an economic benefit to New Zealand of $640 million, and is he prepared to make a copy of that report available to any members who have difficulty in understanding the reasons the Government is considering funding this matter?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Yes, yes, and did not Michelle do a better job on that than she did on other things?

Gerrard Eckhoff (ACT Party): Why has the Government put $5.6 million into a yachting regatta for billionaires, to ease their personal funding requirements, when the same amount could ensure 300 extra hip replacements to ease the genuine pain of those in real need?

Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Because the tax benefits that came from the last campaign, using those maths, would have provided for 6,000 hip replacements.


Maybe the same economic logic still applies for the 34th America's Cup Challenge?

After the Emirates Team NZ sponsorship announcement, last month, the focus of the general media was entirely on on the one sentence of Dalton's comments confirming the continued NZTE involvement, rather than the other 40 minutes of numerous sponsorship announcements and progress to date.

The National Government's stance, despite some very encouraging comments from Minister Jonathan Coleman, at the AC45 launch function in February, was one of apologetic embarrassment, as they advocated more financial cuts ahead of the 2011 Budget.

Now ex-Minister of Sport, and indeed ex-Minister of anything, Trevor Mallard, one of the most adept politicians in the NZ Parliament, jumped into the Media headlights, readily admitted to being guilty as charged over the two-Challenge agreement. And then proceeded to expand on its benefits for New Zealand - continuing the line expressed in Hansard (the official record of the NZ Parliament) six years before.

The America's Cup certainly makes some strange bedfellows.