The Warkworth boat building company which is owned by Larry Ellison’s Americas Cup team Oracle Racing, is refusing to comment on claims that it could receive up to $17.25 million from the New Zealand Government’s Callaghan fund.
The United States- based sailing blog “Sailing Anarchy” has posted an April 15 statement from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment saying that the grant began on July 1 last year and will run till June 30, 2017.
The grant to the Oracle-owned company is in stark contrast to the Government’s reluctance to fund the team New Zealand challenge any more.
Last Monday Prime Minister John Key said he thought “we’re at the end of the road” when it came to committing any more Government funding to Team New Zealand.
The Warkworth company, Core Builders’ Composites built the boats for Oracle’s 2013 defence of the Cup and also sub contracted a number of New Zealand companies to help build the AC45 boats which were used for the primary series of races which took place around the globe.
It received a $1 million grant from the Government in 2011 to help buy sophisticated machinery which was used to build those boats.
The company’s CEO, Tim Smythe, told TV3’s “The Nation” in 2013 that in contrast, Team New Zealand’s boat builders had not invested enough money in their machinery.
“I think New Zealand could have invested more in some of these large machines that we’ve been able to invest in,” he said.
“For example we’ve invested in a very large milling machine, biggest in the southern hemisphere, and we needed to do that because we wanted to build our foils in a certain way. “
On its website the company stresses its ability to design and manufacture high tech tools to build parts of boats.
The company would not discuss the grant today and the statement from the Ministry says the funding was part of Callaghan’s “grow” funding which provides 20 per cent public co-funding for qualifying firms’ eligible R&D expenditure, capped at $5m per annum.
Though some details of the funding has been on the MBIE website since April 13, a statement issued by the Minister of Business Development, Steven Joyce, on April 15 lists 14 companies who have received Grow grants this year but does not mention Core Builders.
Mr Joyce is currently travelling in South America but “Politik” has tweeted that this story is “inaccurate” — he says the grant was made in August last year and was announced and that the grant is for spending up to $5 million a year and is for the company to diversify away from its reliance on building boats.
New Zealand yachting sources remain sceptical saying that it would be easy for the company to cost shift between its new diversified business and its America’s Cup business.
Meanwhile in Warkworth the company has gone quiet.
It laid off 19 — about half – of its staff after the America’s Cup and its website shows no new projects since 2013.