OPINION: The Christchurch City Council's decision to terminate its support for the Ellerslie Flower Show will leave a gap in Christchurch's events calendar.
With the failure of Ellerslie and with little likelihood of much, if any, financial support from the council, filling the gap will be difficult. But it must be hoped that some entrepreneurial spirit will take up the challenge to produce something - a smaller-scale flower and garden show would still be the best bet - to take Ellerslie's place.
Ellerslie was acquired to provide a summertime event to match the increasingly successful spring Cup and Show Week. Cup and Show Week, though, has evolved organically as part of the Christchurch landscape and even then has taken decades to become the central fixture it is today. And though they are now reasonably firmly established, some elements of it have had some very rocky moments in their history.
Ellerslie, on the other hand, was transplanted whole. Its controversial acquisition, as part of an expensive package deal from Auckland, the fact that it came with an oddly alien name with no connection to Christchurch, and its ambitious scale gave it a difficult start. It made a modest profit in its first year but was already waning when the earthquakes halted it for a year. It took a pounding from the critics after it resumed and though it won a warmer critical reception this year, the crowd was not much larger than before. Unlike the Buskers Festival, an event that has grown from small beginnings, it has not quite won a place in Christchurch's collective heart.
But as the advocates of Ellerslie recognised when they bought the show, Christchurch, of all places in New Zealand, is an obvious city for a garden show. The garden city tag may have taken a battering from the earthquakes, but for all the gardens that have been lost there are as many new ones being made. The appetite for the right kind of show could be strong.
Any new event would have to be commercially successful. With so much else on its plate, the council would not be able to take a lead. That should not, however, deter private operators turning their minds towards the possibility of producing an imaginative and entertaining mid-summer event appropriate to a city in the middle of one of the biggest undertakings in the country's history. Ellerslie may have failed but that should be seen not as a setback but as an opportunity.
- The Press