If Team NZ sail away, we won’t welcome them back

Is Grant Dalton holding a gun to the taxpayers’ head or merely establishing a sensible negotiating position?

That’s the question Kiwis will be pondering after the Team New Zealand supremo revealed that Italy had already been established as a back-up host should Auckland not be able to get its shit together in time to host a December 2020 America’s Cup regatta.

For ‘getting its shit together’, read: a substantial investment of public money – potentially a combination of ratepayer and central government dosh – in the city’s waterfront infrastructure.

With the Viaduct no longer viable, another Cup HQ must be created, possibly from scratch. That won’t be cheap.

It will also be a significant logistical undertaking in what is a fairly tight timeframe.

Dalton has put Auckland on notice.

"The only reason we went to the America's Cup was to bring it back here,” he is reported by the Herald as saying.

“We're really clear about that, this is where we want to hold it but we've got nothing in place yet.”

The words that follow “but” in that sentence are revealing. Clearly Team NZ has had some level of negotiation with government and not received any cast iron assurances its requests will be met.

"Rather than finding out next year that it's got to be shopped out all over the place to try and find a venue, we say 'if for whatever reason it can't be in Auckland, which is the intention, absolutely the intention, it will go to Italy’."

Having captured the Cup without a major taxpayer contribution, Team NZ holds a stacked deck. And they’ve come straight out and slapped down the joker.

By Italy, Dalton doesn’t mean the Naples of the South that is Wellington. He means Trieste or Anzio or Genoa, locations not all that adjacent to New Zealand.

If Dalton’s Plan B does eventuate, the rest of the detail contained in today’s Cup protocol release hardly matters.

Who cares what type of boats they sail and where the sailors come from if they're flouncing about in the Adriatic?

Dalton knows this. Having captured the Cup without a major taxpayer contribution, Team NZ holds a stacked deck. And they’ve come straight out and slapped down the joker.

Over to you, New Zealand.

How do we feel about being so shamelessly manipulated? Is this fair pool – or a slap in the face with a wet spinnaker?

It could easily argued that Dalton is fact acting in the best interest of the country and a city not noted for making good, timely decisions around infrastructure investment. Perhaps a royal kick up the butt is what we need?

But it’s high stakes stuff from Dalton.

Whatever the commercial justifications, if Team NZ does turn its back on the nation it purports to represent, we will not understand. We won’t forgive or forget. If they sail away now, they won’t ever be welcomed back.

Read the complete America's Cup protocol here

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