Struggling ASB Showgrounds Put Into Liquidation Amid $2m Rent Row

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Hit by rent demands and Covid lockdowns, the repeated pleas for help from Auckland’s biggest event centre fell on deaf ears.

Liquidators have moved in and secured the cash-strapped ASB Showgrounds, which has lost millions of dollars with the cancellation of major events.

Auction House Webb’s had 44 classic cars, valued at an estimated $4 million, on site for its big collectors’ car auction this weekend. On Tuesday night, all their staff were down at the events centre, after being told they had 24 hours to remove the cars.


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Among the cars are a powerful 1998 Aston Martin Vantage V600, estimated to sell for between $500,000 and $600,000, an elegant 1949 Talbot Lago T26, and a 1976 Jaguar XJ12 C Convertible said to have been owned by Steven Spielberg.

Webb’s said it had been forced, with much regret, to postpone Sunday’s auction until July, due to the unforeseen liquidation. “We have 44 cars to get out of the venue, and to find a new place to store them while we decide what to do,” said Webb’s operations director Christine Kearney.

In the evening, liquidator Paul Vlasic, of Rodgers Reidy, told Newsroom he had been called in by a creditor associated with the the landlord, Cornwall Park Trust Board. He said he had taken control of the showgrounds and the properties. The land and buildings are valued at $48m.

This 1949 Talbot Lago T26, estimated to sell for up to $250,000, is one of the 44 classic cars that Webb's Auction House has to remove from ASB Showgrounds on Wednesday. Photo: Supplied
This 1949 Talbot Lago T26, estimated to sell for up to $250,000, is one of the 44 classic cars that Webb’s Auction House has to remove from ASB Showgrounds on Wednesday. Photo: Supplied

Vlasic declined to say what the implications would be for third parties like Webb’s that had assets on the site, but said he would be in a position to say more in the morning.

The former chair of the showgrounds board, Kim Campbell, told RNZ the development followed ongoing disagreements with the landlord, the Cornwall Park Trust. He said a dispute over rent had exacerbated the pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Management company NZ Exposition Centre Ltd runs 18,000 sq metres of exhibition space on the 8ha site set into Cornwall Park, abutting Alexandra Park Raceway.

In September last year, chief executive Mark Frankham, who has been a director of the company since 2004, said the lockdowns had stretched the events centre to breaking point.

The showgrounds had lost $4 million in the six months from the first lockdown. “We’re on the last thread,” he said.

The Auckland Agricultural Pastoral and Industrial Shows Board, the non-profit charity that rents the events centre and grounds, was forced to cancel 14 major events and 11 smaller shows and concerts last year. The run of ill fortune continued this year with the cancellation of the Royal Easter Show and the Home Show – but there were hopes things were looking up. 

The Sustainable Lifestyle Show went ahead in April, Webb’s was to host its classic cars auction this weekend and the Auckland Food Show was scheduled for next month. And there were plans to reschedule the Homes Show for September. That’s all off now.

The showgrounds’ board, established under a 1972 Act of Parliament, had been in arbitration with the Cornwall Park Trust, which reportedly wanted to put up its annual rent from $750,000 to $2.3 million.

“It’s a real shock and it’s a concern for the events industry.”
– Paul Blomfield, events promoter

The NZ Herald reported in March that the board had spent around $725,000 on legal and arbitration fees challenging the rent hike. Approaches to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, and to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor for Covid impact relief through a $750,000 loan or grant, had been unsuccessful.

The Cornwall Park Trust Board has been mired in legal action all the way to the Supreme Court, over massive rent hikes it has imposed on the leasehold properties it owns on the fringes of the park. But none of the previous rent rises have been on the scale of that it has now imposed on ASB Showgrounds.

Cornwall Park Trust Board facilities manager Brad Nielsen refused to comment, and declined to refer queries to the four board members: Adrienne Young-Cooper, Keith Smith, John Duncan and Alastair Carruthers.

The trust board previously offered the showgrounds a rent deferral, but the money would have had to be paid eventually. The board previously insisted it had “responded positively” to the showgrounds’ request for assistance over ground rent.

But events publicist Paul Blomfield, who for 25 years has promoted the Homes Show, Big Boys’ Toys and other big ticket items at the showgrounds, said its big and small spaces, indoor and outdoor, couldn’t be matched by any other Auckland venue. Even the new national events centre wouldn’t have capacity to host something as big as the Homes Show, he said.

“It’s a real asset for Auckland,” he said. “There’s nothing else that comes close to being able to host events at this scale.

“It’s a real shock and it’s a concern for the events industry.”

“The possibility of going to Covid Alert Level 2 has put doubt on expo events and actual alert level changes have cost the ASB Showgrounds millions of dollars due to cancelled events.”
– Epsom MP David Seymour

Local Epsom MP and ACT Leader David Seymour said ASB Showgrounds going into liquidation, after more than 160 years of shows, demonstrated the Government’s failure to respond nimbly to Covid-19.

“The events industry has worked hard asking Government to consider their unique circumstances. They petitioned Parliament in March but got no policy change,” he said.

“The possibility of going to Covid Alert Level 2 has put doubt on expo events and actual alert level changes have cost the ASB Showgrounds millions of dollars due to cancelled events.”

He added: “It is time for the Government to think harder about the risks it is imposing on different sectors rather than bluntly locking down and locking out, that is not a sustainable strategy.”

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About Craig Ballantyne 25687 Articles
I love anything to do with Harley Davidson and have two beautiful children and a beautiful partner. In my spare time i like building websites and love anything to do with the internet.

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