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Clark strong on benefits of America's Cup and Team NZ investment

by Richard Gladwell, 13 Dec 2017 12:59 NZDT 13 December 2017

Flames have continued to flicker around the funding of the 2021 America's Cup and the merits of NZ Government investment in the regatta and Emirates Team New Zealand.

The Labour-led Coalition government has come under intense pressure not to invest in the America's Cup.

Against that backdrop the comments of former Prime Minister and matriarch of the Labour Party, Helen Clark make interesting reading.

A long time America's Cup supporter Clark endorsed Government investment back in 2002, and 15 years later repeated that endorsement of Government involvement after Emirates Team New Zealand won the America's Cup in June 2017 in Bermuda.

Her comments, coming from someone regarded as one of New Zealand's most astute and effective politicians, are interesting considering that the current Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern worked in Helen Clark's office during her time as Prime Minister. So too did the current Minister of Finance and Minister of Sport, Grant Robertson. Another link comes with Clark's then chief of staff, Heather Simpson returning from the UN to work again in the Prime Minister's office.

Then Minister of Sport, Trevor Mallard is now Speaker of the House having been elected to that position by the Labour-led Coalition Parties. It was Mallard who signed a two-campaign contract with Team New Zealand for a $35million sponsorship position in the team for the 32nd and 34th America's Cup. (The 33rd America's Cup was not open to multiple challengers.)

Current Auckland mayor, Phil Goff was also a Minister in the Clark-led government which made significant investment in the Team.

Given the strong support that has been given by these senior members of Labour governments in the past America's Cups over a 15 year period, it is difficult to understand the current reticence by the same politicians and others of the same hue, given the party's very supportive position over a number of years

In April 2002 NZPA reported:

Government funding for yachting's America's Cup has risen to $8.6 million including extra spending announced this morning by Prime Minister Helen Clark and America's Cup Minister Trevor Mallard.

The Government invested $5.6 million in the cup in May 2000, with some of the money helping Team New Zealand pay crew after the shock departure of former skipper Russell Coutts and other sailors to highly paid foreign syndicates.

Miss Clark, due to go sailing on one of Team New Zealand's 2000 cup winning boats today, said in a statement the syndicate had been a wonderful ambassador for New Zealand.

Their success had a positive economic impact on the country.

"The Government is determined that the enormous opportunities offered by New Zealand's second defence of the America's Cup are not lost.

She said cabinet ministers had approved a number of trade, tourism, industry development and cultural initiatives to take place in conjunction with the Cup.

Miss Clark said a report about the 2000 Cup's impact estimated it generated $640 million of economic activity in New Zealand, most of it in Auckland.

She said similar funding announcements for promotions had been made following the making of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy.

Some of the $3 million funding announced today would be spent on dedicated business facilitators, promotion of the marine industry and "Kiwiana/Pacifica" welcome packs for superyacht owners.

The tourism and trade departments are also flying 40 international journalists to New Zealand next month to see the country and to watch a buildup regatta to the cup.

The Louis Vuitton challenger series for the cup begins on October 1 (2002), while Team New Zealand defends the America's Cup from February next year (2003).

"A huge thing for New Zealand"
Clark was again unequivocal about her support and enthusiasm for New Zealand government support for the 2021 America's Cup according to an NZPA report from Bermuda after Team New Zealand had won the America's Cup for the third time.

Former Prime Minister Helen Clark says there was "no question" the Government would have to be involved in funding and organising the America's Cup, "a huge thing for New Zealand".

Clark -a keen fan of the America's Cup - said she was delighted with the win. "I'm absolutely elated by it. I just wish I could have been in Bermuda for the big day."

"Undoubtedly when New Zealand hosts a major international sporting event like that, the Government has to be part of it - no question.

"And the signs are they will be."

She said it was the same with the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and the two times New Zealand had hosted an America's Cup defence in 2000 and 2003, when Labour was in Government.

"This is a huge thing for New Zealand. This keeps New Zealand in the headlines. It's good for tourism; it's good for marine technology, it's good for the reputation and brand of the country."

Clark was criticised by National in 2007 when the then-Labour Government agreed to put $38 million into Team New Zealand's campaign. Although National went ahead with the funding, it only put in $5 million for the most recent (2017) campaign. [And offered a similar amount for the 2021 campaign, which was accepted, but will have to be repaid if the Cup is not Defended in New Zealand.]

Clark said there was no question it would be good for New Zealand to host it here as the world's most prestigious sailing event.

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