Lies, damned lies and . . .


I used to chair a trust which supported people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Most of our funding came through government agencies and it was precarious.

We knew that we were competing with other providers and if we ours wasn’t the best proposal someone else would get the funds.

That happens all the times, and not just with government agencies.

The Problem Gambling Foundation has found that out and isn’t happy about it and has Labour’s support for that:

Labour says funding for the Problem Gambling Foundation has been stopped because the foundation opposed the deal to increase the number of gambling machines at SkyCity Casino.

That doesn’t sound good but the very next paragraph makes it better:

But the Government has confirmed the new holder of the contract to provide health and counselling services for problem gamblers throughout New Zealand is the Salvation Army, which also opposed the SkyCity deal.

That didn’t stop Labour blaming the government:

Labour’s Internal Affairs Spokesman Trevor Mallard said the foundation was being forced to close its doors because it vocally opposed the deal between the Government and SkyCity to increase the number of pokies in the Auckland casino, in return for building a new national convention centre. . .

This would be the same Mallard who was a guest of Sky City at the Rugby World Cup.

That was then, back to now:

Mallard said the foundation was the largest provider of problem-gambling services in Australasia and “it is hard to imagine a more qualified organisation to do this work”.

The funding decision was based on far stronger grounds than Mallard’s imagination.

Health Ministry group manager Rod Bartling said negotiations were still ongoing, but the tender process was fair and independently assessed.

“The ministry can confirm that it has informed the Problem Gambling Foundation that it does not intend to renew its national contract to prevent and reduce gambling harm,” he said.

“The process to re-tender the contracts for these services was an open contestable tender process.

“The evaluation panel deciding on the tender comprised six members – three internal ministry staff and three external evaluators from the Department of Internal Affairs, the Health Promotion Agency and a Pacific health consultant.

“The ministry also asked Pricewaterhouse to independently review the procurement process and this confirmed the ministry’s processes followed accepted good practice.”

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne was even stronger in refuting the claims  that the PGF lost funding  due to political pressure.

“The Ministry of Health clearly signalled in 2012 that it would go to the market for the provision of gambling harm minimisation services during its public consultation on this issue, and this is the outcome of that process”, says Mr Dunne.

“This review had been on the cards for some years prior to this, as the development of the sector has to a large extent been undertaken in an ad hoc manner, with duplication of services from national providers simply not achieving best value for money that clients of services are entitled to expect.”

The process to retender the contracts for these services was an open contestable tender.   The evaluation panel deciding on the tender comprised six members: three internal Ministry staff and three external evaluators from the Department of Internal Affairs, the Health Promotion Agency and a Pacific health consultant.  

“The Ministry of Health has been particularly mindful to keep the process clearly separate from any perception of political interference. This extended to commissioning an independent review by Pricewaterhouse on its proposed decisions and I congratulate them on the rigorous commitment to probity they have shown in following this tender process as it went beyond the requirements of best practice”.

“The outcome is that services are more streamlined and will achieve increased service provision from government funding in the gambling harm minimisation area. The Problem Gambling Foundation will continue to be contracted to provide specialist services, if negotiations with them are successful, says Mr Dunne.

It is proposed that the major national provider will be the Salvation Army’s Oasis service, which already provides gambling harm and other addiction and social services across the country.

“I am aware that the Salvation Army has been critical of the government in certain areas over the years, including the SkyCity convention centre, but I see no reason why this should prevent them from being contracted to provide the excellent services that they do.

“For Labour and the Greens to say that the Problem Gambling Foundation’s funding has been cut because of its opposition to particular government policies is patent nonsense. It was not until that process was completed that I was advised of the outcome.

“Just because they have Problem Gambling in their title, doesn’t mean they become a default provider, and I commend the Ministry for its rigorous process and decision making which will ultimately benefit those New Zealanders who may who experience negative outcomes from their, or others, gambling activities”, says Mr Dunne.

The PGF lost funding because the Salvation Army, which was also critical of the Sky City convention centre, convinced the evaluation panel, backed by an independent review by Pricewaterhouse that it was offering something better.

That still wasn’t good enough for Labour leader who has been active on Twitter:

A picture might paint a thousand words but that doesn’t make them true.

Cunliffe and Mallard aren’t going to let the truth get in the way of their story which gives us lies, damned lies and Labour.

H for hospitality and . . .


H stands for hospitality  like that which a handful of Labour part MPs enjoyed as guests of Sky City at a recent rugby test.

That’s not the only Sky city largesse of which members of the caucus have partaken.

Over at Keeping Stock we find that many more were guests of the company at World Cup games.

skycity labour


That’s eight MPs who weren’t discussing the evils of gambling and how to ensure the company didn’t expand.

That’s eight MPs who could be accused of another h word – hypocrisy if they speak, and vote, against the Sky City casino convention centre Bill.

I’ve gone to casinos a few times. It’s possible I’m one of few to have made more than I lost because my usual spending limit is $20 and once won more than $200 on a $5 bet.

But this is not my idea of pleasant entertainment and if I had to design purgatory I’d model it on a casino.

The lack of windows which requires artificial light, the noise and the crowds make me feel very uncomfortable.

However, I accept that some people enjoy casinos, that most gamble there without doing any harm to themselves or others.

If there’s going to be legal gambling, a casino is probably the best place to have it because of the controls and monitoring of problem gamblers which they have in place.

I’ve been to conferences at Sky City. It’s a good venue but it can’t cater for more than a few hundred delegates.

The convention and conference market is a healthy one. A bigger convention centre will provide a good number of jobs directly with a spin off for the wider economy through associated retail and tourism spending.

Sky City is willing to build it.

I don’t think the small increase in the number of pokie machines the company is requesting  is going to cause the increase in problem gambling opponents fear when the total number in the country has been dropping for years and there are so many other ways to gamble without the controls and monitoring a casino is required to undertake.

Then there were 5


Oh dear, not one, not two, not three, not four but five Labour MPs were enjoying Sky City’s hospitality in a corporate box at last week’s rugby test.

There’s nothing wrong with that in general. Businesses entertain all sorts of people in their boxes and politicians enjoy hospitality from a range of hosts.

But something smells more than a little off when the MPs have been so very critical of the company and the government’s deal with it to build a convention centre.

MPs meet people with a range of views including those with which they disagree.

But casual meetings or formal business ones are very different from socialising in this way.

Does it mean that Labour doesn’t really mean what it says in opposing the Sky deal or is it just another example of behaviour which invites the use of the H word?

Will we pay for this petition too?


The Green Party is launching a petition opposing the Sky City convention centre deal.

Will we be paying for it as we did for the one seeking a referendum on asset sales?

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