Ecofest's future looks up for grabs

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 13:00 21/03/2014
Amelia Kearney
PATRICK HAMILTON/Fairfax NZ
FUTURE UNCERTAIN: Amelia Kearney, 9, models a creation in the Funky Fashion Show during last year's Ecofest in the Trafalgar Centre. The future of the event will be decided next week.

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Nelson City Council will decide next week on the future of the Ecofest and may look for expressions of interest from other groups to run the event.

Council staff advised the planning and regulatory committee yesterday to recommend the council either drop the Ecofest for this year or look for interest from other parties.

The annual event has traditionally been run jointly by the Nelson and Tasman councils to "remove barriers which hinder people" from making sustainable choices and provide environmental education and engagement.

It was held in the Trafalgar Centre, but with the building's closure there were questions over whether it will go ahead this year.

Manager environmental programmes Chris Ward told the committee yesterday he was hearing that people were more environmentally educated now and wanted something different.

"People are telling us to stop telling them about the environment and actually do something about it," he said.

Last year the event attracted 4000 people and had more than 100 stalls. It included workshops, seminars, and advice on a range of topics, including heating homes efficiently, building eco-homes, and healthy school lunches.

Mr Ward said the Ecofest had evolved into a "tradeshow marketing opportunity" rather than an environmental event and told the council staff time would be better spent on doing more in the community on projects like the Maitai.

The decision will go to the council next week. It could go ahead if there is enough interest from parties to run the event at Founders Heritage Park where it was held in 2009 - with one of the highest attendance rates. But the council will need to decide quickly as the event is normally held in August and there could be time pressure to get it under way.

Councillors on the committee recognised Mr Ward's concerns, but were divided on the issue.

Councillor Ruth Copeland said she felt strongly that it was important to "keep the brand going" and stopping it would send the wrong message.

Councillor Matt Lawrey said his view was that Mr Ward's team time was best spent on issues like the Maitai, but the Ecofest was "connected to the spirit of Nelson" and was worried the event would lose momentum if it was stopped for a year.

But Councillor Ian Barker said he did not support the Ecofest going ahead this year as it was important for staff to focus on other environmental concerns. But he said it should be looked at again next year once the future of the Trafalgar Centre would be known.

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The committee eventually decided to recommend the council looks for "expressions of interest from interested parties" to run the event this year and in subsequent years. Mayor Rachel Reese said seeking interest from other groups to run the event "sounded sensible" as the council was "interested in working with the community and building community relationships" and this provided that opportunity.

Tasman District Council has been in discussions with the Nelson council about the event, and will make a decision on its role once the Nelson council had decided what to do at its next meeting on March 27.

- The Nelson Mail

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