Carnival's fate 'not council's fault'

BY TOM FITZSIMONS
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2010

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The cancellation of the Cuba St Carnival is disappointing, but it is not Wellington City Council's fault, mayor Kerry Prendergast says.

She has won backing from carnival board chairman Nick Simcock, who says the tough economic environment was the main reason for cancelling the festival.

Carnival founder Chris Morley-Hall said yesterday that the big street festival, which drew a record 150,000 people last year, would not go ahead next year as planned.

He blamed the council for failing to commit to continuing funding for the carnival, New Zealand's biggest street party.

Community groups have called the cancellation a "huge loss for Wellington" and an academic says it is a blow for Wellington's cultural diversity.

But Ms Prendergast said Mr Morley-Hall's version of events was "absolutely untrue".

The cancellation was "disappointing, but it's their [organisers'] decision". The council was still working with a new trust that was hoping to run both the carnival and the Fringe Festival in the long term.

"We have always been supportive of the Cuba St Carnival and contributed approximately $300,000 last year."

She denied that council spending on the Rugby World Cup had affected the carnival's fate.

"It is absolutely not drawing council funding from any other events in the city."

She also retracted the council's earlier suggestion that Mr Morley-Hall had requested $500,000 for next year's carnival.

Instead, she said that no formal request for funding had been received by the council.

Carnival Collective chairman Nick Simcock said the main reason for the cancellation was the difficult economic environment. Sponsors had been directing their money toward the Rugby World Cup.

"No-one's more acutely disappointed than us. It was a very difficult decision."

The council had been supportive, and he was confident it would have provided funding if the festival had been held next year.

The cancellation has been called a "huge loss for Wellington" by dance troupe Real Hot Bitches and a "stink buzz" by Fat Freddy's Drop.

Otago University music lecturer Shelley Brunt, who carried out field work at last year's carnival, said it was an extremely important Kiwi music event.

Last year's carnival featured more than 80 bands playing on stages in Cuba St and Courtenay Place.

It was also crucial as a form of public expression for Wellington's different cultural groups, she said.

"With the carnival being axed, that really threatens the visibility of these cultural groups."

Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson said he wanted to work with local businesses to try to rescue the carnival.

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- The Dominion Post

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