Rethink as Ellerslie show fails to reach full bloom

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 12/03/2013

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The Ellerslie Flower Show "needs to rebuild" after crowds failed to turn out for the multi-million dollar event for the second year in a row, organisers say.

Final ticket sales for the annual five-day event in Christchurch's Hagley Park, which finished yesterday, will not be known until later this week, but it is thought numbers could be less than last year, when the festival ran at a small loss.

It will be months before it is known if it broke even.

"The show needs to rebuild, there's no question, and it needs to hold its ground," managing director Dave Mee said yesterday.

"There have been a couple of major events . . . and we're still recovering.

"It's a massive event and we are always looking to change, tweak and modify."

The 2011 earthquake, which wiped out a lot of accommodation, coupled with a tough economic environment, impacted on ticket sales, he said.

The long-term security of the event was a decision for the Christchurch City Council, but "the flower show definitely has a future", he said.

About 45,000 people attended last year's weather-affected event, after the 2011 show was cancelled in the aftermath of the February 22 earthquake.

The 2010 show attracted 55,000 people, while 75,000 attended the inaugural event in 2009.

Criticisms levelled at this year's event included the high price of tickets and too many trade sites and not enough exhibition gardens.

Sue Beyer, from Palmerston North, attended the event for the first time this year and said it would likely be her last.

"Over the years it's been such a hype . . . [but] it was a little underwhelming."

In response to the criticisms, Mee said the ticket prices had not changed in four years and there were fewer retail sites at the event than previously.

Surveys completed by people who attended would be looked at closely, he said.

Ticket sales might have fallen, but sponsorship had increased since the event began, he said.

Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button said there were always people who were negative about events in the city, but the feedback she had received about Ellerslie was positive.

"The vast majority of people really enjoyed it."

The council has previously said Ellerslie generates about $15 million for the city compared with about $25m from Cup and Show Week. The event was secured for about $3m and runs at no additional cost to ratepayers. Its annual budget, which is also about $3m, is funded solely from sponsorship, ticket sales and on-site retail.

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- The Press

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