Taxpayers on the hook for $90k mud bill for Rotorua Mudtopia festivals
Taxpayers will foot the almost $100,000 bill to bring mud from Korea to Rotorua for a mud-meets-music festival.
The bill, $90,000 in total, will see five tonnes of South Korean mud powder imported to Rotorua for first five new Mudtopia festivals - the first of which will be held in December.
It's not ordinary mud, however.
At a meeting of Rotorua Lakes Council on Thursday, chief executive office manager Craig Tiriana said "the difference between their mud and ours is ours is geothermal and theirs is more cooling".
Rotorua Museum arts and culture director Stewart Brown also wanted to reassure a number of councillors that the bill for the mud move wasn't being footed by Rotorua ratepayers, but rather taxpayers.
"The funding is coming from $1.3 million supplied by central Government. There is no funding from ratepayers," he said.
However, Tiriana clarified in the wake of the meeting that Brown's about no ratepayer funding wasn't quite correct.
Yes the government had put in $1.3 million, but the council had also put in $1 million. The $90k for the mud powder was coming from that combined pool of money.
However, Tiriana said that he expected that the $1 million in costs footed by council should be made back through ticket sales would result in no ratepayer hit.
Tiriana also said council staff were in talks with Ministry of Primary Industries staff "to treat it [the Korean mud] to make sure it's safe".
The mud agreement was reached between Rotorua Lakes Council and the mayor of Boryeong in South Korea, home of Korea's mud festival and the template for the Rotorua version.
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick and councillor Trevor Maxwell had just returned from Korea and described the Boryeong festival as an event that needed to be seen to be believed.
"We'll do ours the Rotorua way," said Chadwick.
She also said the agreement "opens up the opportunity for more export products to Korea".
Rotorua's Mudtopia Festival is set to be held at Rotorua Racecourse from December 1-3, and will include a line up of Kiwi musicians including Shapeshifter and Anika Moa plus a range of mud-based activities.
Unsurprisingly, news of the Government spending has been met with criticism, with the Taxpayers' Union describing the mud money as "beyond imagination".
"The Taxpayers' Union is astounded at MBIE's decision to provide $1.5 million of funding to the Mudtopia Festival, to be held in Rotorua in December," the lobby group said.
"How MBIE and Rotorua Lakes Council think spending $90,000 on importing mud from overseas is a good idea is beyond imagination. It's like Dubai importing sand for a Desert festival," said Union researcher Matthew Rhodes.
"The Rotorua Mayor was on the defensive today, trying to dispel claims that the mud money was a wasteful use of ratepayer money, by highlighting that the money had in fact come from MBIE.
"That is no excuse. Whether it's funded by the ratepayer or the taxpayer, either way it is still public money, and the Council's attitude to this spending shows little regard for those who earned it."