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Another gap in the America’s Cup story

Analysis: RNZ's Todd Niall wants to know what the plan is with the America's Cup Village

Will the real America's Cup Village plan please stand up?

There's one plan nearing the end of public submissions for resource consent, one suddenly unveiled by Auckland Mayor Phil Goff and the Government's lead minister David Parker, and there's Team New Zealand's "$50 million cheaper" plan.

The mayor and the minister won't talk to RNZ after a brief media flurry last week when they backed a new plan long-pursued by Parker, leaving key questions unanswered.

One is why they went public, part-way through a negotiation with Team New Zealand, which the previous day had presented officials with a new variation.

"We chose to make that announcement because the Mayor of Auckland was obliged to tell his council of the revised plans, and it seemed appropriate that we answer questions from the media because there's a public interest in the outcome," Parker told Parliament.

Auckland Councillors told RNZ they understood they were being briefed only because the minister had scheduled a public announcement two hours later.

Parker has been keen on a Cup village different to the one agreed between Auckland Council and the cup defender Team New Zealand in December.

He believed more of the bases could be built on industrial Wynyard Point, lessening the scale of wharf extensions, if one bulk fuel storage operator Stolthaven, could be persuaded to move.

All of those goals seemed possible in the mayor and minister's announcement, after agreement was reached with Stolthaven.

The bonus was that the minister's option was now declared cheaper - even though it and the council's previously $142m plan, had blown out to $185m and $200m respectively.

Parker's is deemed cheaper despite the need to commercially persuade the departure of both Stolthaven and ASB which leases an adjacent carpark, and the risk of decontamination costs beyond those required to be met by Stolthaven.

ASB has told RNZ that no talks had begun on quitting the carpark.

Sources familiar with America's Cup technology have told RNZ that the design of five bases intended to be on Wynyard Point are unworkable, and the inclusion of a public road across the base yards unacceptable to teams.

The minister's office, in a statement to RNZ, said on the question of base formats "our advice is that it meets Team NZ's requirements".

The planning and construction timeframe for the village is critical, a point made often by Goff.

The biggest teams including Team NZ are expected to want to set up by the end of next year, a target which the already-agreed plan is said to meet.

Parker said his proposal, which includes extensions to both Hobson and Halsey Street Wharves, as well as major work on Wynyard, has "the same or similar" planning and construction timings.

RNZ understands however that one estimate for Parker's option, pushes out completion by more than two months, putting at risk the ability for teams to occupy completed bases by the summer of 2019/20.

Teams that can't set up the summer before the regatta, may not stay in Auckland for the full year 2020, reducing the economic benefit which is ultimately why public funding goes into the America's Cup.

What is the status of the variation presented to government officials by Team NZ, the day before the Parker/Goff announcement?

Goff said he was aware of it, but had not been formally briefed at the point he pitched the Wynyard Point deal to councillors.

Parker's office said "details and costing are as yet unclear".

RNZ understands the team's revised plan retains the 75-metre extension of Halsey Street Wharf - versus 40 metres in the Wynyard Point option - and may not need Wynyard Wharf or the relocation of a car ferry and seaplane wharf.

Goff has always said that one criteria for a village is that it "work for Team New Zealand".

The mayor has now clarified that line, saying the council and government may decide what works for the team, which might get what it needs, rather than what it wants.

It is possible the new Wynyard Point option meets neither of those criteria. It houses just three teams on the prime Hobson and Halsey Street Wharves, versus five on the agreed plan.

Team New Zealand on Hobson, Luna Rossa and a US syndicate on Halsey. The fourth entry - big-budget BAR with its royal patron, the Duchess of Cambridge, would find itself on the fringes on Wynyard, next to a fuel tank facility.

While the drawings show eight bases, Goff and Parker's media statements refer to "at least seven".

An eighth small base is understood to be unuseable.

Parker has been determined since December in his pursuit of a village layout that requires less than the 75-metre Halsey Street Wharf extension in both the council and Team New Zealand's preferences.

The Wynyard Point option and its ability to deliver that, has earned him praise from lobby groups and individuals opposed to encroachment by wharves on the water around them.

But that needs to be weighed up against detailed information on cost, deliverability and workability of not one, but two alternatives and none of the information is available.

The team's keeping out of the limelight in the village discussion. It also has to complete negotiations with the Government and Council on cost-sharing for the event itself.

RNZ understands all the event costs are agreed and that the ball is in the Government's court, but Parker told Parliament: "Team New Zealand tell us they are not yet in a position to complete negotiation of the hosting fee."

It is another gap in the America's Cup 2021 defence story, that needs filling.

This story originally appeared on RNZ.

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