I have grown about as disillusioned as the next person with the Americas Cup itself; it is one event that has accomplished the rare feat of taking almost everything offensive to left leaning sensibilities, bottling it, and then spraying it untowardly all over the nation every three years (depending on how litigious everyone is feeling). As I remember it (and I was just over knee high to a grasshopper at the time) it wasn’t always regarded as such, particularly in the early days when Sir Peter Blake was at the helm. We were the ‘little nation that could’, as we all donned our red socks and eagerly watched kiwi ingenuity outsmart the wallets of the big boys.
Now we find ourselves in a different paradigm, still catching our breath after being churned through the wake of a global financial crisis driven by rich white men who we have had to sit and watch sail off into the sunset, largely scot free. We see growing inequality around us, welfare and environmental concerns are increasingly shown to the back of the lolly scramble and it is just logical to want to tell an elitist boat race to politely go fuck itself.
But I disagree; funding Team New Zealand is not a bad decision. Please stay on the line.
I’m going to go ahead and draw a fairly large bow and take us back to 1969 and the moon landing, which cost the modern equivalent of US$100 billion. America taking a man to the moon was not cheap, and people still question the fiscal wisdom of space exploration. Again, in light of similar points made above, fair enough. But in 1976, Chase Economic Associates decided to answer the question of how the moon landing benefited the American economy, and what they came up with really shouldn’t be that surprising. They estimated that for every $1 spent, $14 was generated in the economy by technological developments in areas such as communications, computer science and manufacturing directly resulting from the mission. That is huge.
Now clearly the Americas Cup is no moon landing, but the parallels are there. Economic estimates suggest that for every $1 spent on the two Americas Cup events we hosted, $2 came back into our economy; the 2013 campaign is estimated to have topped up our economy $87 million from its original $36 million investment. This comes from those boats being built here, along with the cutting edge technologies that make them run. We then take them out and display them on the world stage and do a damn good job of it every time, no matter the outcome. We do this to such a degree that even the competition is having their boats built here (as well as pinching our sailors, which I’m less ok with). The tradition of kiwi ingenuity is still still alive, and still doing incredible things on limited budgets even as the competition are handed blank cheques by the one hand of the benefactor that isn’t holding the Cuban cigar.
Maybe in a different world we could say no to handing over another $36 million and have it funnelled directly into eliminating child poverty instead. In the world we currently live in however, it is naive to think that would actually happen if we were to cancel their funding. It just doesn’t work that way, and to be brutally honest if the government really wanted to spend more on child poverty it would find the money regardless. Taking investments in science and technology at face value is incredibly easy to do and it makes them easy to dismiss, but when you look a little deeper there are legitimate tendrils of development that start to sprout into the the larger economy. Currently, estimates value the marine industry in New Zealand resulting from the Americas Cup to be be worth around $1.7 billion and employing over 8000 people. This is a worthwhile investment and long term the spinoffs may help to economically get all our eggs out of the one basket, which is a benefit we will all share in long term.
This piece is dedicated to the print media who have tirelessly obfuscated many facts on this matter beneath a breathtaking amount of snark in the relentless pursuit of sales and page views from successfully stirred up faux outrage among our trusting population. Ka pai.