The Auckland-Bluff yacht race will go ahead, its organiser says, after weeks of funding wrangles ended with Invercargill City Council agreeing to contribute $380,000 to the inaugural event.
Craig Seuseu, from A2B Ocean Race, said rumours the race would be cancelled were incorrect, and he would head to Bluff tomorrow to front public meetings and explain the concept to locals.
Auckland Council declined to fund the February race, and Seuseu has yet to secure a title sponsor, but Invercargill's decision means it will contribute more than a quarter of his projected $1.5 million budget.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Major Events Fund had kicked in $440,000 despite the race, at that stage, having no other major backers. Organisers were confident the project was viable, and were happy with progress, Seuseu said.
He said he had stayed out of debate in Southland over funding the race, but now that the money was confirmed he would explain to locals his plans for a family-friendly finish-line festival.
"We want to get in front of the public and show them what our vision is," he said. "It has been a bit quiet down there while we've been waiting for the local council debate to play out.
"People want to know more and be better informed . . . I am sure there are some people who've questioned what we're doing."
The Sunday Star-Times understands Auckland Council's events funding arm, Ateed, was unconvinced of the economic benefits to the city. Ateed would not comment.
The benefits for Southland are more apparent, but insiders said it would be madness for the province to commit significant funding to upgrading harbour facilities in Bluff without a long-term commitment from the race and finding other events that would use the improvements. In response, organisers have designed a partly demountable mooring system.
A ministry spokesman said it backed the race because it was "expected to bring our country significant exposure as a key international yachting destination".
The A2B race will start in Auckland, then head north to Cape Reinga before heading down the east coast to Bluff.
- Sunday Star Times