Council says returns won't justify cost.

An international festival for large sail-training vessels has been rejected for a major event sponsorship by Auckland Council, despite its potential to promote the City of Sails image and grow sailing tourism.

A Tall Ships Festival for Labour Weekend next year is proposed by the Spirit of Adventure Trust and Marine New Zealand.

Trust chief executive Dean Lawrence said yesterday it was hoped Auckland would take the opportunity to host some of the rare and stately square-rigged ships taking part in the Royal Australian Navy's celebration of the centenary of its arrival in Sydney Harbour.

The trust's barquentine Spirit of New Zealand will represent New Zealand in the October 3-11 international fleet review.


"It is our expectation we would return to our home port Auckland with at least six tall ships," said Mr Lawrence.

A fleet of Tall Ships over 40m long would race from Sydney to Auckland. It would be the first in the Southern Hemisphere under Sail Training International.

In past years, naval training ships, including the Esmeralda (Chile), the Cuaute'moc (Mexico) and Pallada (Russia), had made individual visits to Waitemata Harbour, which had been enjoyed by Aucklanders.

Training ships from England and the Netherlands were looking to make their home voyage from Sydney around Cape Horn via Auckland, Mr Lawrence said.

But if Auckland put on activities for 300 crew and sail trainees and public enjoyment, ships like the Lord Nelson might stay up to four days instead of a brief technical stop.

"This massive activity in Sydney gives us an opportunity to leverage off it - and it's an opportunity that won't come here again in a hurry," said Mr Lawrence.

The key to luring the vessels was offering a port or council contribution to their port costs.

Based on eight visiting A and B class vessels, the estimated need was $200,000.

However, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) offered $30,000 compared to the $1 million contribution by the City of Sydney to its harbour's celebration.

Ateed's acting general manager destination Jennah Wootten said a feasibility study showed economic returns were not significant enough to justify investment from the major events fund.

Mayor Len Brown said the event sounded spectacular and he was pleased that the council through Ateed offered $30,000 in support.

"The event does not meet the strict criteria for further funding under the Major Events strategy. However, other ways in which the event can be supported are being investigated."