Flower show future to be debated in secret

WARM RECEPTION: Visitors to this year's Ellerslie Flower Show gave it the thumbs up.
WARM RECEPTION: Visitors to this year's Ellerslie Flower Show gave it the thumbs up.

City councillors will meet behind closed doors to decide the future of the loss-making Ellerslie Flower Show.

The event lost a record $516,000 this year - the fourth year running it has made a loss. Since 2010, is has lost more than $900,000.

A report ordered after the 2013 show lost $325,000, shows that 2009 was the only year it made a profit after moving to Christchurch.

The Christchurch City Council will next Thursday discuss its future in a session where the public will be excluded.

City councillor Yani Johanson, who chaired the committee that asked for a review of the show, was "alarmed" by the figures.

He said the council now had to weigh up the tourism and economic benefits of the show against the cost to ratepayers.

"I'm open minded as to what we do, but we can't sustain having a loss."

Council finance committee chairman Raf Manji said continuing with the event was "throwing good money after bad".

The show's financial problems prompted the previous council to order a comprehensive report on the event within 10 weeks of the 2014 show ending.

"It has not been a successful event," Manji said. "From what I've seen, it didn't look like a good purchase in the first place."

Ellerslie had an annual budget of about $3 million.

While the city council owned the event, it had not contributed financially to the show since it purchased it in 2009 and was run as a commercial venture.

However, ratepayers paid for any loss.

Manji said he was against the council owning any events, as ownership meant ratepayers shouldering the risk.

"We have to review the whole structure, including the ownership aspect, and whether we consider it to be a priority at the moment," he said.

"Events are important for the city, but we have to reduce our risk."

Manji said the city could not foot another $500,000 bill, but no decision had been made on the show's future.

The report showed the loss was a result of a $160,000 drop in sponsorship, a $170,000 cash injection to try to remedy the errors of 2013, and a downturn in visitor spending at the show.

Ellerslie managing director Dave Mee this year called for the council to invest in making the show successful rather than footing the bill after the fact.

He said the show would not achieve its full potential without council money. While financially the show was not performing, about 94 per cent of Ellerslie 2014 show-goers were happy with the show, and 84 per cent said they would go again if it continued.

Manji said: "Even though people enjoyed it, that came at a significant cost. [$500,000] is a lot of money for a flower show."

While economic impact reports showed Ellerslie contributed about $4.4m to the Christchurch economy, Manji said this should be taken "with a grain of salt".

The impact on tourism would be difficult to weigh.

An estimated 85 per cent of show visitors were Cantabrians.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief Tim Hunter said Ellerslie was one of the few events unique to Christchurch with "national pulling power".

The Press