Council event funding’s peak problem


Queenstown’s council is being flayed for giving almost half its event funding to peak-season events.

Local marketer Bruce McGechan calculates that at least 40 per cent of its $569,350 events budget has been allocated to events in the resort’s busiest months - January, February, July and August.

Examples include $40,000 for The Pioneer mountain bike race and $20,000 for the New Zealand Rural Games - both in early February.

Two exceptions, McGechan suggests, are the NZ Open golf tournament in March and the Winter Games NZ in August, because of the international TV coverage they get - they received $80,000 and $100,000 in event funding, respectively.

McGechan says only a third of the funds support shoulder-season events when the town’s not full. He’s calling for an overhaul before the next funding round in April.

Long-time local events organiser Peter Doyle agrees that it’s illogical for the council to throw money at high-profile commercial events in peak times.

“I was of the opinion that the event strategy was to assist local event planners with non-commercial events that encourage local, national and international visitors to come to Queenstown in quieter times of the year.”

Council corporate services general manager Meaghan Miller says encouraging shoulder-season events is one of the events strategy’s key objectives - and the events panel weighs that up when considering applications.

Council’s process is robust and consistent, she says.

“The reality is, however, that the peak season appeals to certain event organisers.

“The market will dictate whether events are viable or not and elected members take this into account when reviewing applications for funding.”

McGechan’s challenge comes after he unsuccessfully applied for funding for his new Down to Earth Wine Celebration. The event, from October 24 till November 4, was deliberately timed for the shoulder season.

Miller says the council doesn’t fund marketing programmes or conferences - “and we have been very clear with Bruce about how he could attract funding for a proposed event in the future”.

McGechan says he’s also unhappy that the event funding panel only comprises council representatives, and no one from the tourism industry.

But Miller says past experience proves external representation on the funding panel leads to conflicts of interest.