Government needs to front up

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Last month deputy Prime Minister and local MP Bill English was in town – and Mountain Scene via its privileged media position got an audience with him.

When Scene chief news hound Philip ‘Scoop’ Chandler suggested perhaps the Government should dig fairly deep into its pocket when it came to a Queenstown convention centre, English – who is also the Finance Minister – reached into his pocket and started rummaging around.

Ironically, he pulled out a $50 note – was it an omen, in relation to the proposed project’s $50 million cost.

Probably not.

As comical as English’s initial reaction might have been, it doesn’t detract from the fact the Government and none other than Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key has previously hinted they’ll chip in – but just how much is anyone’s guess.

English stuck his $50 back in his pocket before soberly answering with the party line: “We’re just watching this public consultation process. [John Key] has indicated a favourable view about it – we’ll end up having the discussion about the detail, I’m sure.”

We didn’t expect him to come up with a concrete figure there and then – though a ballpark would have been nice – but no harm keeping the pressure on.

So should councillors progress a convention centre proposal at next week’s D-day meeting it’ll be in the absence of any knowledge on a Government funding contribution – but we’ll have a darn good case for a decent dollop.

After all, a proposed Queenstown centre is supposed to be part of a national network – Auckland’s looks like it’ll have the bill for its National Convention Centre covered by SkyCity Entertainment Group.

The Government is stumping up the entire cost of Christchurch’s proposed centre as part of the earthquake rebuild.

Meanwhile, Queenstown is the only one of the three that will have to put the hat round residents and commercial ratepayers for a contribution, which seems unjust given our dramatically smaller ratepayer base.

Not to mention this place is the jewel in the crown of the country’s tourism hotspots.

If councillors front up on Tuesday and show some faith by moving the proposal forward to a stage where council can start seriously negotiating with partners, Government needs to front up too.