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SkyCity says work not possible on Apec conference centre due to lockdown

It will lay off hundreds of employees due to closure of its casinos, hotels, bars and restaurants in NZ, Australia

Bengaluru, India

ONE of New Zealand's leading property developers said on Friday that construction work at a convention centre slated to host the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting in 2021 would not be possible for now due to a coronavirus-driven lockdown.

SkyCity Entertainment Group also said it would lay off hundreds of its employees after being forced to close all of its casinos, hotels, bars and restaurants in New Zealand and Australia in March due to major restrictions imposed by both governments.

The NZ$703 million (S$86.5 million) New Zealand International Convention Centre (NZICC), which is the country's largest project, faced a major setback late last year after a fire ripped through the complex.

At the time, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the venue would still be able to host the high-profile conference that would attract major world leaders.

But the country has been on lockdown since March 26 after a national emergency was declared to arrest the spread of the outbreak, which has infected nearly 800 people in the country, halting non-essential activity.

"No work is currently possible on the NZICC and Horizon Hotel project," SkyCity's chief executive officer Graeme Stephens said, adding that all other all capital development projects have been put on hold.

NZICC is being built by New Zealand's largest construction firm Fletcher Building.

SkyCity Entertainment said around 200 salaried staff in New Zealand were being laid off, while 90 per cent of its workforce in Australia, totalling 1,000, has been put on leave. It added that the New Zealand government's wage subsidy programme was the reason it was not letting go of more.

But if the future state of the business remains unchanged over the next three months, the company will reduce waged staff, which could impact around 900 people, it said. REUTERS

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