Council shares in horse event questioned

By Lawrence Gullery

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A level of confusion and resistance surrounded the Hastings District Council's decision to "approve an intent" to be a one-third shareholder in the newly formed Horse of the Year Limited company.

The company is being set up with Showjumping Hawke's Bay and the owner of the Horse of the Year event, Equestrian Sports New Zealand, in a shareholding agreement which would secure the major international event in Hastings for 15 years.

The council met yesterday to discuss the matter but the report on the proposal confused some councillors who were unclear about what they were being asked to decide on.

Councillor Mick Lester said he could not support the proposal without first seeing a business plan for the company while councillor Wayne Bradshaw said the plan should have been lodged with with the long-term plan, along with other public submitters.

Deputy mayor Cynthia Bowers, who was appointed by the council to a board investigating forming the company, said councillors were not being asked to commit to a sum of money, but to agree to be a one-third shareholder, to give some certainty to Equestrian Sports New Zealand.

She said a draft business plan was completed but she wasn't comfortable releasing it to the council until the board had approved it. "The significant decision the council will make is in June when you will get the business plan, the constitution and the proposed shareholding agreement. That's when you will make the decision about the funding. Today is not about that."

Cr Lester said he still felt uncomfortable committing to be a third shareholder when there was no figure available to illustrate the expected financial volume of the council's share.

Cr Bowers said the working capital expected from the council was not likely to be more than $100,000 and the money would be repaid from projected profits from the 2013 show, which would be the first event run under the new company.

The council was also given advice by its staff that a late submission to the long term plan, such as the shareholder proposal, could be accepted.

Hastings' mayor Lawrence Yule was also asked if the council should be backing a sports event when the government was asking councils to think about focussing on its core responsibilities of providing civic services.

"I know the Auckland council is involved in a yachting event, there are arts events in Wellington supported by the council there.

"I think what the new minister [of local government] is saying is that we need to be sure why we are involved in these events and what value to the community they have," Mr Yule said.

The council agreed to approve an intent to subscribe for one-third of the shareholding in Horse of the Year Limited, subject to decisions made through the long term plan in June, a constitution and business plan presented.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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