America’s Cup: Jacinda Ardern responds after Team NZ rejects Government offer for next regatta

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government put its best foot forward in its offer to Team New Zealand – and wants Kiwis to tell the team how they feel about the prospect of the event moving overseas.

The comments come after Team New Zealand officially rejected the Government’s $99 million bid to host the next America’s Cup in Auckland.

Ardern, speaking from Fieldays today, said: “The Government, on behalf of taxpayers, went into those negotiations in good faith, in the hope of being able to retain the competition here in New Zealand. We wanted to have that home crowd, and for every Cup where we’ve held it, we’ve hosted.

“We have to make sure that not only we put our best foot forward and make every endeavour to hold and host the race here, we also needed to identify the point where it wouldn’t be value for money for New Zealanders.

“The ball is in their court. We believe we’ve made a decent offer, and now it’s for them to resolve where the Cup will be raced.”

Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash said it was “really disappointing” to have not agreed on a deal that saw the races hosted here.

“But the commercial reality of America’s Cup in 2021 is that this is multi-million dollar commercial proposition as well as a yacht race.

“Not all is lost now but Team NZ are now able to negotiate with other parties. If no one can offer them what we have offered, then they come back here and if something has to go back to Cabinet, it will.”

Ardern urged Kiwis to tell Team NZ how they felt.

“Make your voice heard. There are still negotiations being had, and if you feel really strongly about this in the same we did, let the team know.

“I, like every Kiwi, want to see that race hosted here. You can’t replace a home crowd, and you cannot replace the huge strength of feeling that New Zealanders bring to that race. That’s what makes it so exciting.”

Asked if the Government’s bid could go higher, Ardern said there comes a point when the economic benefit no longer stacked up.

“At some point, we have to say we can’t justify investment beyond that for the taxpayer.

“We have to make a call about where that line exists. I could not hand on heart stand here in front of you and say that it would have been good value for money for New Zealanders to go beyond where we have. So I wouldn’t do it.”

She said she wouldn’t go as far as saying that Team NZ “didn’t give it a good run with us”.

“The team themselves, I do think, want to race here. I do think they want a home crowd. That’s the team. But of course there are other commercial imperatives that play.”

Nash said Kiwis will still support Team NZ.

“It’s just a shame they won’t be able to go down to the viaduct.”

Team NZ sinks Am Cup hosting bid

The decision means the next Cup defence is likely to head abroad, despite the offer tabled by the Government and Auckland Council.

However, Team NZ boss Grant Dalton said today’s rejection did not necessarily mean the Cup defence was heading offshore.

“The end of the exclusive negotiation period does not eliminate all possibility of the event or an event being hosted in New Zealand. If resources enable an event in New Zealand we will remain open to it.”

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the city would be “disappointed” with the rejection and that Team NZ is likely to be out of its council-owned waterfront base by March.

Team NZ is now starting discussions with other nations to look into hosting options.

“We must explore other opportunities to ensure we can put up another successful defence,” Dalton said.

“No matter where in the world we are, we will always be Team New Zealand.”

Earlier today Ardern had reiterated the Government still wanted New Zealand to host the next America’s Cup, amid signs the defence is heading overseas.

Ardern told Radio Hauraki this morning: “Our view is that we want it to be hosted here.

“We’ve put our best foot forward, but there’s also limits to what we can do,” she said.

“Because, you know, this is taxpayer-funding, ultimately – so it’s got to always be to a benefit to New Zealand.”

Ardern said there was therefore a point where one could not justify the amount of money going in.

“We’ve tried to make that judgment about where that line is. We’ve put our best foot forward.

“Really now, it’s in their court – that’s how I see it.”

Speaking to The Hits, Ardern noted that there had not been a time when New Zealand had held the Cup and not hosted it.

It also emerged this morning that a surprise overseas venue had been tipped to bid for 2024 America’s Cup.

Team New Zealand CEO Grant Dalton on Tuesday night told more than 400 members of the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron (RNZYS) that it was extremely unlikely that an agreement with the Government to stage the next event on Kiwi waters would be reached, after more than three months of negotiations had failed.

Dalton was addressing RNZYS members at the club’s headquarters on Team NZ’s reported plans to take the event offshore.

The Kiwi syndicate retained the Auld Mug by beating Italian outfit Luna Rossa in the Cup Match in March.

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