Another flower show unlikely

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 12/06/2014

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Ellerslie Flower Show brand has been irreparably damaged and a replacement garden show will struggle to get off the ground, the event's former owner says.

SMC Events partner and former Ellerslie director Dave Mee said the Christchurch City Council's decision to drop the show would cost it in the long run.

The council had damaged the value of the brand it bought for $3 million in the eyes of investors, he said. Without significant financial outlay, getting another rebranded flower show off the ground in 2016 would be almost impossible.

"Starting a new show is a huge mountain to climb. There'd be big questions from investors on how long it would be there," Mee said.

"I don't think you'd get another Ellerslie-type show off the ground in Christchurch."

Because the council did not renew its contract, Mee and SMC Events are free to develop another national flower show under a new brand, probably in the North Island.

He did not think New Zealand could support two flower shows running annually and believed Christchurch would struggle to compete.

Sir Bob Parker, who was mayor when Ellerslie was bought, said the new council had mismanaged the decision. "The council has made a strategic error," he said.

"They no longer have control over the one group of people with the experience and industry contacts to do a show like Ellerslie. If we put a garden show on here, we'll be competing with a much better show in Auckland."

The council's last attempt at its own garden show, Flora, cost ratepayers $360,000 and was eventually abandoned.

Cr Tim Scandrett said it was too soon for the council to consider a replacement show, but he thought one was likely.

Mee's predictions of council failure were a savvy business move, he said. "It's really nice [Dave Mee] is seeing us as a threat. He's seen how the events industry operates down here and he wants to cut out the competition."

Mee said even a smaller show might not be successful in Christchurch because Ellerslie had set a standard for visitors.

Despite the controversy surrounding the show and the fact SMC had now lost the Ellerslie brand, he did not regret selling the show to Christchurch.

"It was the right decision at the time."

The $3m purchase price was fair which was why SMC continued to manage the event, he said. "If you've ripped someone off, you don't stick around."

DUNKLEYS RULE OUT TAKING ON EVENT

The organisers of Christchurch's first garden show say a successful event is possible but have ruled out running it.

The Dunkley family ran Gardenz in Hagley Park for 15 years without any corporate sponsorship or Christchurch City Council funding.

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Fiona Dunkley said the show was a successful family business, attracting about 20,000 people a year. The Ellerslie Flower Show's broad show content "diluted" the event, she believed.

"Everything at Gardenz had to be garden-related. It was much more focused."

Gardenz included exhibition gardens, landscaping competitions, live sculpture displays, lectures and garden-related retail, Dunkley said. "The failure of Ellerslie is including all the non-garden stuff."

She was surprised Ellerslie had gone under when it had access to so much corporate funding and a ratepayer-funded safety net.

Ellerslie had an annual budget of about $3 million.

"I am shocked they had such high bills," Dunkley said.

"Gardenz didn't cost ratepayers a cent.

"We even paid the council to lease Hagley Park."

PROFIT AND LOSS

1994: The first Ellerslie Flower Show is held in the Auckland suburb of Ellerslie. Run by the Rotary Club of Auckland as a fundraiser.

1998: Show is moved to the Auckland Botanic Gardens in Manurewa.

2004: Show is sold to SMC Events, who run three more shows in Manurewa.

2007: Christchurch City Council buys Ellerslie Flower Show for $3m.

2009: The first Christchurch show makes $224,710.

2010: $88,319 loss.

2011: Show cancelled due to earthquakes.

2012: $2000 loss.

2013: $325,000 loss.

2014: $516,000 loss, show cancelled and contract with SMC Events not renewed.

- The Press

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