Ellerslie Flower Show future remains uncertain

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 15:42 28/05/2014

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The Christchurch City Council has been unable to make a decision on the future of the Ellerslie Flower Show after two full council meetings on the issue.

Speaking after today's closed-door meeting, councillor Tim Scandrett said the decision had again been deferred.

A new council sub-committe of councillors Tim Scandrett, Yani Johanson, and Ali Jones will join Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck will now work with Ellerslie management to ''negotiate a solution that is acceptable for both parties'', Scandrett said.

The Ellerslie Flower Show has cost ratepayers about $900,000 since 2010, on top of an initial purchase price of $3 million.

The Press understands the council sought specialist legal advice about the implications of abandoning the struggling show.

A source close to the process told The Press councillors were mostly in agreement about the show's future, but the consequences of the decision needed to be investigated.

A lack of contract law knowledge meant an independent expert was required, outside the council's existing legal team.

South Island law firm Anderson Lloyd has been called in to provide expert legal advice to the Christchurch City Council on the Ellerslie Flower Show contract.

Partner David Goodman, a specialist in corporate law, joined city councillors in a meeting behind closed doors this morning.

Councillors Pauline Cotter and Jamie Gough did not attend the meeting.

Councillors last week met behind closed doors to discuss whether or not to keep the show running, but deferred their decision, asking for more information.

They had been expected to make an announcement today, following a second public-excluded council meeting.

Sir Bob Parker, who was the mayor when the show was purchased, said he thought letting it go was a mistake.

He said while he did not read the contract in detail, there would have been provisions made for the council to terminate the agreement with Ellerslie.

He did not know what the contractual consequences of terminating the agreement would be.

"It seemed to us a very good opportunity," Parker said. "We need to think further than just this moment.

"If we lose these events, we'll never get them back."

Parker noted the Ellerslie management team had managed to raise about $3m every year, without council help, to keep the event operating.

He said the show had undoubtedly been affected by the earthquakes.

"It should be cost-neutral to ratepayers, and I think that is achievable," he said.

The show has faced scrutiny since it was purchased by the council. A sharp drop in visitor numbers and sponsorship post-quake left ratepayers to pick up an annual shortfall.

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Widespread disappointment after the 2013 show forced organisers to inject another $170,000, resulting in much higher visitor satisfaction scores this year.

Show management have said it could be saved if the council invested in its operation upfront.

Mee said last week he supported the council choosing to hold Ellerslie biennially with another city, or increasing its funding and backing the show continuing as-is.

If no decision was made by Sunday, the council would begin incurring a financial penalty under the terms of the contract.

- The Press

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