Ellerslie Flower Show fee of $3.2m scorned
An Auckland event management company was paid more than $3.2 million to run the loss-making Ellerslie International Flower Show.
Christchurch City Council figures released under the Official Information Act show SMC Ltd was paid an average of $658,000 for each of the last five annual shows.
SMC logged an additional $75,704 in travel expenses for the 2014 show year, including domestic flights, parking, taxis and rental cars.
The company's boss said the fee was fair, but a Christchurch event management veteran said locals could have done it for less.
City councillor Raf Manji called the fee "ridiculous".
SMC sold the show to council in 2007, but continued to manage it from Auckland. The management fee was paid out of the show's annual $3 million budget, paid through sponsorship.
In 2009, the contract between SMC and the council set the annual fee at $600,000, to be adjusted annually based on changes to household costs inflation. That show made a $224,000 profit.
In 2014, SMC was paid $709, 337 to manage the show. That show made a $516,000 loss.
Since 2009, Christchurch ratepayers have paid more than $900,000 in show losses, on top of a $3m event purchase price paid to SMC.
Christchurch city councillors recently voted to ditch the flower show.
SMC chief executive Dave Mee said the fee paid to his company was fair and based on the 2009 market rate.
The fee agreed between SMC and the council was the same as it was before the city bought the show.
It paid for 13 show staff and casual employees at show time.
Mee said the $75,000 in travel expenses was justified.
It was similar to travel costs for previous year's shows, he said.
Manji, council finance chairman, said based on his experience, SMC could have produced the show for half of what it was paid.
"Personally, I think that's an exceptionally high fee," he said. "We basically spent a fortune on a show which had nothing to do with Christchurch and ended up with an excessive contract to boot."
Council Ellerslie spokesman Cr Tim Scandrett said the show's expenses "didn't add up".
Event manager Rae Finlay ran the Canterbury A&P Show for 12 years - an event which attracted more than 100,000 people every year.
"I definitely think the flower show fee was at the high end of the scale.
"There was more than one Christchurch company which could have done it cheaper," she said.