America’s Cup – your taxes at work
"Luke needs to come over to San Fran this week and realise the best part of yachting are the parties. I can't think of a more fun way to blow millions of taxpayers dollars"Featured comment
Nothing arouses the passions like a sport the whole country can get behind, a sport with such wide appeal it’s embraced by the masses and is accessible to anyone and everyone.
I am, of course, talking about yachting.
Quite how New Zealand became so captivated by such a boring spectator sport seems to be an historical accident.
Since competing with boat KZJ in the 1980s, the Americas Cup has been a source of some pride for many New Zealanders. From starting out as private syndicates, essentially piloted by mercenary sailors, it has become a sort of national team-sport by proxy.
In fact, it is apparently so important to our national psyche that the government has tipped a lot of cash into it.
In 2003, Team New Zealand (TNZ) received $33.75 million dollars for its 2007 campaign, ostensibly to help the America’s Cup retain its crew after losing that year.
When TNZ lost again in 2007 (not a close competition mind you, they lost 5-2), the government committed another $36 million in funding for the 2010 campaign.
Of course, yachting being yachting, most of the action didn’t take place on the water but in the courts, and TNZ were excluded from competing in 2010.
So this year TNZ is up against Oracle racing. TNZ has trousered the taxpayers cash and hope to bring home the cup.
If they do there will, no doubt, be more money showered on retention, and there’s a strong rumour that even if TNZ loses the government is going to cough up more cash to subsidise it again anyway.
The question here has to be this: why is the America’s Cup industry any more deserving than the rail shops in Dunedin, or a saw mill in the central North Island, or a widget manufacturer?
Of course it isn’t more deserving, but less.
But like luvvies and film subsidies, well-heeled sports fans are happy enough with the money going into America’s Cup. And like John Key standing next to Ritchie after the Rugby World Cup, there is always the hope of reflected glory.
Good luck to TNZ, but subsidising a sport that is a plaything of billionaires is not justifiable.
And the economic grounds on which it is sometimes justified are decidedly flaky. If TNZ goes under because the government doesn’t back it?
Well, sometimes it’s best to abandon ship.
Luke Malpass is a research fellow at NZ Initiatve.