John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Details needed to justify event costs

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Councillor Steve Morris.
Councillor Steve Morris.

Spiralling costs associated with developing Tauranga as a major events destination has city councillors demanding more details to justify the increase.

The issue reared its head earlier this week when the council was asked to sign off on a 35 per cent increase in the events budget to a new figure of nearly $1.8 million.

Most of the increase was driven by the recruitment of three additional staff this year after a business case was presented and approved through the council's Executive Leadership Team.

The effect of the decision was to increase events staff costs by $283,000 compared with the original budget of $370,000 in the council's 2015-25 long-term plan.

A report to Tuesday's council meeting detailed how the new staff were needed in the areas of "facilitation, event delivery and sponsorship and leverage".

City events manager Pip Loader said the 2012 council restructuring had seen events staff go from four to two, making workloads unmanageable.

In 2014 the council decided that events should be a major focus and they were now meeting the needs of customers to have safe and successful events.

The number of events had grown from 280 events last year to 329 this year and was heading to 450 next year. But unease at the size of the increase that included an extra $100,000 in operating costs, $42,000 for marketing and administration and $40,000 for consultants, led to Councillor Kelvin Clout wanting to prune $100,000 out of the total increase of $465,000.

His request led to the issue returning to the council yesterday where a revised budget was presented that reduced the increase to $265,000.

It was achieved by increasing commercial sponsorship by $100,000 and cutting $50,000 out of operating costs, $30,000 out of marketing and administration, and $20,000 out of consultants fees.

But discontent lingered, with Councillor John Robson wanting to know the baseline figure for events in the 2012-22 long-term plan.

Councillor Steve Morris said that when the council agreed to put $7.25 million into events for the 10 years starting 2015, there was no indication that additional resources would be needed.

In reference to staff that had already been hired, Mr Morris said they were being asked to retrospectively approve something that, if they had that information in 2015, he would not necessarily have supported.

A decision on events funding for 2016-17 was postponed until next Monday in order to meet Mr Robson's request for more information.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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