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Flower show to be reviewed

ABBIE NAPIER
Last updated 05:00 24/02/2014

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The future of the Ellerslie Flower Show depends on its performance this year.

Organisers are promising bigger and better after last year's show failed to meet expectations and ran at a significant loss.

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said the previous council had decided to keep the show going despite the losses.

She said there would be a comprehensive review of the event.

"This will give us a firm analysis of the investment and the return," she said. "I welcome the review, it's the right thing to do."

The Christchurch City Council purchased the Auckland show in 2007 for about $3 million. While the show had pumped about $36m into Canterbury's economy since then, it ran at a $325,000 loss in 2013 and attracted 10,000 fewer visitors than expected.

The 2013 show disappointed more than half of the visitors and the council said it had taken that feedback on board.

Council marketing unit manager Richard Stokes said this year there would be more gardens - a shortcoming last year.

At last year's show, 72 gardens and exhibits covered less than 2000 square metres. This year, 96 gardens and exhibits would cover 3300 sq m. It included 41 gardens and 55 horticultural and floral art exhibits.

Show manager Kate Hillier said she was confident no-one would be disappointed this year.

"If people aren't satisfied with this year's show, I'm not sure what else we can do," she said. "It's going to be amazing."

Wellington landscaper Ben Hoyle was the toast of last year's show, scooping his sixth gold medal for his garden, A French Kiss in Akaroa.

He had entered again this year and had been building his garden on site.

"It's looking very full already," he said. "Certainly there is a major increase in the number of displays and gardens."

Hoyle said while the criticism of last year's show was probably warranted due to a low number of gardens, he said it was important to remember the show was also recovering post-quake.

"It feels like a lot of people have been fence sitting, seeing how things go," he said. "Lots of exhibitors are coming out of the woodwork now, and it feels more buoyant."

H&S Landscape Design won the Supreme Overall award at last year's show.

Owner Grant Stephens said some of last year's criticism was warranted.

"The criticism around the number of gardens was justified," he said. "But criticism of the quality, I think, was not quite fair."

"It's quite exciting this year, there's a lot more for people to see."

This year's chief judge, Andy Sturgeon, a Chelsea Flower Show gold medallist, would be visiting Ellerslie for the first time.

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"I'm sure Ellerslie will hold its head up amongst other international shows," he said.

"Every year I look at the Ellerslie gardens online and I think it routinely punches above its weight, given the size of the population and lack of any close neighbours."

He said the number of gardens planned for this year was "very respectable".

While it was too soon to assess whether the show would turn a profit this year, Stokes said it would be closely examined after the show.

Ticket sales were up 17 per cent compared to the same time last year and Stokes was hoping last year's visitor numbers, 44,500, would be exceeded.

Highlights of this year's show were likely to include an increased focus on sustainability and eight Christchurch schools competing in a new category.

The Ellerslie Flower Show opens on Wednesday and will run every day until Sunday, March 2.

- The Press

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