A bid to slash ratepayer funding of two flagship Tauranga festivals sparked an angry pre-election outburst by Mayor Stuart Crosby, complaining that councillors should stop looking at their feet.
At stake were grants of $20,000 to the Garden and Artfest and $25,000 to the Tauranga Arts Festival from the council's $200,000 events bid fund.
"It staggers me to hear some of the comments made today," Mr Crosby exclaimed at yesterday's council meeting to consider funding requests from the city's five flagship events.
His broadside was delivered after Councillor Rick Curach argued the two festivals were on a sound financial footing and all the council was doing was putting ratepayers' money into their bank accounts.
Cr Curach said the Garden and Artfest had $205,000 in the bank and the Arts Festival $160,000 - enough money to see them through if they did not make a surplus.
The subsequent debate saw the emergence of familiar voting patterns centred on the council's two factions.
The meeting also revealed the pressure on Tauranga's ironman event, the Port of Tauranga Half, from its Auckland equivalent and how it was "at the crossroads".
The potential threat if Auckland launched its own version of the Aims Games was used to help justify continued council support for both those events.
Cr Tony Christiansen said it should be about a hand-up rather than a hand-out and he had difficulty supporting a grant that was up to 10 per cent of what the organisation had in the bank.
Cr Murray Guy said it was about making decisions based on policy and it was a slap in the face for ratepayers if the council felt obligated to fund them.
Cr Bill Faulkner argued that the council could not suddenly pull funding from the Garden and Artfest, saying the event's success was weather dependent.
Deputy Mayor David Stewart said the council should be looking to grow the city and stop trying to cut success off at the knees. "We have this tall poppy-type thinking that if someone is successful then you drop them down a bit."
Councillors Curach, Guy, Bill Grainger and Catherine Stewart voted against the grants to the Garden and Artfest and the Arts Festival, with the Arts Festival debate sparking more ructions.
Mr Crosby said it beggared belief what he was hearing. "If you stop looking at your feet and start looking at your head you will start to understand what benefits they bring."
Mr Crosby said councillors were making a "horrendous assumption" that the people of Tauranga did not want the council to support the Arts Festival.
"It is absolutely critical that we are seen to be funders on behalf of the community ...
events could fall over."
Cr Grainger said the council had not looked after basic infrastructure and it had caught up with it.
Tauranga ratepayers' support for flagship events
Garden and Artfest $20,000
Port of Tauranga Half $20,000
Tauranga Arts Festival $25,000
National Jazz Festival $30,000
Aims Games International Sporting Championship $30,000
$75,000 left for applications to the major project and small project investment funds. Applications open in September.