Alf’s good mate Steven Joyce is a beneficent bugger – a sort of Father Christmas for the well-off.
He distributes his largesse not on the basis of whether the beneficiary has been good or naughty over the past year, but whether he, she or it mixes in the right circles.
These are circles of people plush with money and an urge to donate to the National Party, usually to ensure against the election of a leftie or greenie government.
Steven accordingly would not have needed too much persuading when asked to consider whether taxpayers should bankroll the New Zealand Open golf tournament.
Too damned right they should.
Some niggly tossers ask: but will there be a positive return?
It doesn’t matter. We don’t get a positive return, so far as Alf can see, from the money biffed at domestic purpose beneficiaries and other people down on their uppers.
Why should golf be different?
Accordingly we learn today that…
Taxpayers will pay $1.9 million to bankroll the next two New Zealand Open golf tournaments despite the predicted economic return falling well short of the requirement for such a large investment of public money.
The Major Events Development Fund investment requires a return of $4.50 for each dollar handed out.
The 2012 and 2013 golf tournaments, which received taxpayer contributions totalling $1.15 million, returned $2.55 for each dollar received, documents obtained by the Herald under the Official Information Act show.
The projected returns for the 2015 and 2016 events are in a briefing for Minister of Economic Development Steven Joyce.
But the figures have been blacked out in the version given to the Herald. The report does state that the expected returns “are lower than those that would be expected at the requested level of investment”.
Mr Joyce said the projected return was “just one of the things that is taken into consideration”.
The Herald goes on to explain the nature of the pitch made in favour of the application.
It’s an approach the poor people might like to consider, when they join the queue for benefits.
It relied heavily on luring wealthy foreigners and high-powered business executives to play in the pro-am format at Sir Michael Hill’s private golf course The Hills, near Queenstown, alongside the likes of Prime Minister John Key.
But a second report, obviously the work of some grinch within the bureaucracy, tried to pour cold water on the application.
It details the leverage and legacy value of the 2014 tournament and says:
“Experience has shown that it is very difficult to attract the top echelon of overseas business executives and leaders of major corporates in New Zealand) to commit a week of their time (and the money) required to take part in the four-day NZ Open”.
Two $10,000-a-player entries to the 2014 tournament allocated to Tourism New Zealand as part of the $900,000 public funding deal were given back after they could not be filled.
The spots eventually went to two executives from Indonesian state-owned energy company Pertamina at the invitation of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
It had been hoped the visit would help New Zealand sell geothermal expertise to Indonesia.
“Unfortunately, the Pertamina representatives were not able to stay on or include stops for business discussions outside Queenstown, and Geothermal New Zealand was not able to free a senior representative to engage with them at the tournament,” the report says.
Alf was delighted to see that Steven has taken issue with those who have been banging on about corporate welfare.
He said there was “no basis” to the view the tournament was a taxpayer-funded jolly for the wealthy and well connected.
“Attracting investment and profile to New Zealand is a serious business,” he said.
We learn something from the Herald about the Major Events Development Fund’s guidelines, by the way.
The Herald says applications are unlikely to succeed if they have “received [fund] support or other significant government funding in the past and have no credible evidence of future financial independence from government support”.
But every rule has its exceptions.
Joyce is obviously aware that six previous tournaments received a total of $3.6 million.
And New Zealand Open organising committee chairman John Hart has very ably defended the use of taxpayer money to help run the event.
Mr Joyce said he had told Mr Hart the tournament would not be bankrolled by the taxpayer on an ongoing basis. The government would drop its funding from $900,000 to $700,000 for each of the next two years.
But a one-off payment of $500,000 for television coverage means total funding for the event has increased to $950,000 for each of the next two years. In real terms funding has risen in each of the past four years.
Alf has no quibbles about this.
To the contrary, he sees a grand opportunity to promote his constituency and its economic interests by lobbying for the tournament to be taken away from Michael Hill to be held on the local golf course.