Lights out for New Plymouth firm

A Wellington firm now in charge of putting together the Festival of the Lights show.
A Wellington firm now in charge of putting together the Festival of the Lights show.

A New Plymouth company has been pushed out of the city's Festival of the Lights with a Wellington firm now in charge of putting together the show.

The decision has outraged New Plymouth District councillor Sherril George, who says it has short-changed the community.

In July, MJF Lighting, of Tawa, was awarded the contract to install the lighting for the TSB Festival of the Lights despite the cheaper bid from incumbent New Plymouth company Wells Instrument and Electrical.

"I think we should look after our own business which have provided good competent service at a reasonable price," Ms George said.

"This is what the local government amendment act is all about."

Council events manager Brent Thawley said the three-year installation contract had been up for renewal and the council had followed procedure by calling for tenders.

"Basically we put it through the normal tender process with stated criteria that all applicants would be assessed against. The interview panel felt MJF would best meet the criteria," he said.

Mr Thawley said Wells losing out to MJF had nothing to do with a lacklustre public response to last year's lighting display. The contract for installation does not include design work.

Worth about $125,000 per annum, Mr Thawley said there was minimal difference in price between MJF's tender and that from Wells but the Taranaki Daily News understands the difference was close to $30,000.

Wells Electrical boss Graham Wells said he had no problem with losing out but the council had not adequately explained why his bid for a further three years was unsuccessful after he had been doing it for nine years.

He said his price for the contract was based on the fact that it was a community event and Wells was a company that wanted to support its community.

Council support services general manager Steve Taylor said they continuously looked for the best possible price for a job and local companies did not get preferential treatment.

"I guess in terms of supporting local business we do that the other way through the economic development agency Venture Taranaki," he said.

"At the end of the day a business has to be competitive and if you go down that road of supporting local it can be hard to define what local business is."

MJF, known for its film and theatre lighting services, has been in charge of the lights at Wellington's botanic gardens for 16 years and is behind a number of other exterior displays in the city.

Managing director Michael Farrand would not say if his company had applied for the contract previously.

He said the lighting would be assembled in Wellington and shipped to New Plymouth kitset-style.

Taranaki Daily News