Six-figure-amount could be owed by Horse of the Year

By Victoria White

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Former HOY event manager Kevin Hansen claims his company is owed bonuses from when it ran the Hastings event. PHOTO FILE
Former HOY event manager Kevin Hansen claims his company is owed bonuses from when it ran the Hastings event. PHOTO FILE

The long-standing event manager of the Horse of the Year show claims they could be owed a six-figure amount in bonuses.

After running the show for 18 years, last year was the final time the event was managed by Event Pro, owned by Kevin Hansen.

During Event Pro's tenure, the show operated at a loss four times, but was said to have become New Zealand's premier equestrian competition - credited as a multi-million benefit to the region's economy each year.

However since the show's event management contract was put up for tender early last year by governing body Horse of the Year (Hawke's Bay), Mr Hansen said they have faced "a huge brick wall" as they tried to claim bonuses they believe were owed.

Mr Hansen, who is now based in Melbourne after his company merged with the Australian Equine Productions, said bonuses had been "a major part" of their contract as event managers which the company were "pretty certain" they could claim.

He would not stipulate the amount owed, other than it was "quite a lot of money" - confirming it was a six figure amount.

"We are asking for those bonuses and HOYHB Ltd are not sending us the information to confirm we can apply for those bonuses," he said. "We've been asking for that information since early 2015 and it's not coming."

"The last thing we want to do is harm the Horse of the Year show," he said. "We just want enough information in front of us so that we know we can claim these bonuses. We're pretty confident, but until we get that information [we don't know]."

However - HOYHB board chairwoman Cynthia Bowers said the information requested had been sent to Mr Hansen's barrister. She did not know why Mr Hansen would be claiming he had not received this.

"It is a claim that has been made against HOY but it has not yet been determined whether in fact it's a valid claim or not", she said, adding they had been in negotiation with Mr Hansen since the claim was made around April 2015.

Mr Hansen said the response he received from the board when he requested information was that they were busy, or away.

"We got some information about it three weeks ago, but it's not sufficient," he said, "there seems to be a reluctance to supply the information to us."

Ms Bowers said she was disappointed the issue had been brought out in a public forum, as it was a matter for Mr Hansen's company, and the HOY company.

"The shareholders have all been advised of it, the auditor was advised of it, and the decision was made in conjunction with the auditor that there didn't need to be anything noted in the audited financial statements that were signed off during August," she said.

The Hastings deputy mayor said she would speak with HOYHB's lawyer about the situation - however she stated whenever they did send information Mr Hansen would "sit on it for several months", before asking again.

"It's been a very slow, painful, drawn out process and we would like to get it resolved once and for all."

They had suggested to Mr Hansen a meeting was needed to discuss "what in effect is a disagreement".

Mr Hansen said they had told HOYHB they would prefer to go into mediation on the issue, rather than creating a legal challenge.

"I don't want to lumber the HOY show with a huge liability right now, we want to be very careful, and that's why we would like to go to mediation," he said. "We don't want to harm [the show] but...everywhere we move with the Horse of the Year board at the moment there seems to be a huge brickwall."

A trading performance review of the event, commissioned by Hastings District Council in June, stated while being managed by Eventpro, the event had operated at a loss four times, with the most significant in 2009 at a $225,000 financial loss.

This year, under new managers SMC Events, the show was forecast to have resulted in around $170,000. This has since been confirmed as a loss of $187,150.

Ms Bowers said this difference was due to depreciation, and some final auditing, and accounting adjustments.

"So there's nothing major, no major difference between the show loss which is what was reported in July and the final accounting loss of $187,150."

After 2016's loss, council agreed to make a cash grant of $170,000 to HOYHB, and it was agreed council should increase their annual contribution to the HOY event to $120,000.

Up until last year, the council provided HOY with $35,000 a year as host city sponsorship - this was increased to $70,000 for the 2016 event.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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