Sky City proposed 3500-seat convention centre


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By Michael Dickison

An artist's impression of the proposed 3500-seat convention centre for Auckland. Photo / Supplied

An artist's impression of the proposed 3500-seat convention centre for Auckland. Photo / Supplied SkyCity's promise of 800 jobs at its convention centre - a figure first announced by the Government - is twice as many as employed by a bigger venue in Melbourne. And it is up to four times the staffing levels of other convention centres compared in a 2009 feasibility study for the former Auckland City Council. "The 800 jobs will be a mix of full-time, part-time and casual, with mainly young New Zealanders benefiting and will cover these roles," said a spokeswoman for SkyCity. "No more detail at this stage is available." Event management firm Big Day's director, Nina Baxter, said conventions could be huge operations drawing in several outside firms.

The venue's own staff typically looked after services such as food and beverage and hotel operations, she said. Kitchen staff alone could number more than 40, and operators such as SkyCity often used a ratio of one front-line staff per 15 visitors. For a full delegation of 3500 for the SkyCity facility, this would mean 233 staff on deck. "What needs to be taken into consideration is it isn't only front of house staff, it's also back-room staff, like cleaning and concierge." The SkyCity spokeswoman said the kinds of jobs in the 800 figure included florists, technical support, uniform designers, cleaners and service staff. However, the annual report for the Melbourne Convention and Events Centre Trust says the venue had only 133 full-time staff and 273 casual staff.

The casual staff worked the full-time equivalent of 154 jobs. Meanwhile, tourism consultants Horwath HTL interviewed other convention centres when it reported to the Auckland City Council in 2009 about the feasibility of an international convention centre. The majority of centres employed its own staff to perform most roles and outsourced some non-core functions, the consultants said in a report. And Sydney's convention centre had 200 "expert and experienced" full-time equivalents, while two centres in the Asia-Pacific region had 290 and 302 staff each. In other overseas examples, Hong Kong's AsiaWorld-Expo reported about 780 full-time equivalent staff, but it is roughly twice the size of the convention centre planned in Auckland, at 70,000sq m. SkyCity said the land for the centre was the size of Eden Park's field - about 14,000sq m - but the design and floor space was yet to be finalised.

The 2009 feasibility report suggested a 27,000sq m total floor area was optimal. In wider benefits of the proposal, a business case for an international convention centre in Auckland prepared by Ernst & Young and KPMG in 2000, estimated the facility would create or support 350 jobs in its first year, rising to 1100 jobs after five years and 1500 jobs after 10 years. A follow-up report by Ernst & Young in 2001 said the majority of spending by delegates occurred outside conference centres and it was the hotel, retail, entertainment and transport sectors that benefited most. The former Economic Development Minister David Carter last year announced the 800 jobs figure. A spokeswoman for the current Economic Development Minister, Steven Joyce, said the jobs were calculated by taking account of the size of the proposed centre, the expected number of events at the centre and the estimated wage bill of such a centre.

The number was estimated by dividing the estimated wage bill by the average salary of staff in the sector ($30,000). The Ministry of Economic Development expected they would all be employees of the centre, and the full-time equivalent was 500, she said. The numbers the Weekend Herald highlighted for other centres appeared to be core staff - the 800 jobs figure for New Zealand included both core and casual staff, the spokeswoman said.

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