A long-serving Rotorua district councillor says the saga over imported Korean mud has been a public relations nightmare.

Charles Sturt said Rotorua Lakes Council should have released details about the purchase months ago.

His comments come after the Government's minister in charge of funding for major events said he was not aware of the deal before it was reported in the media and admitted it was "difficult to get enthusiastic about the mud purchase".

The council has come under fire from some for buying $90,000 worth of mud from South Korea to be used during its Mudtopia Festival in early December.

Advertisement

The council used part of a funding grant of $1.5 million over five years from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's major events development fund to buy five tonnes of South Korean mud.

The Rotorua Daily Post became aware of the mud purchase after it was reported in the South Korean media.

The signing of an event partnership agreement for collaboration between Boryeong Mud Festival and Rotorua's Mudtopia festival was held in Rotorua last year. Photo/File
The signing of an event partnership agreement for collaboration between Boryeong Mud Festival and Rotorua's Mudtopia festival was held in Rotorua last year. Photo/File

Mr Sturt, chairman of the council's Operations and Monitoring Committee, said the matter would be discussed in full at today's committee meeting after requests from the council's chief executive Geoff Williams and Rural Community Board to include the issue under "urgent business" on its agenda.

"I was approached by the board and chief executive to provide a full update on the festival and the mud purchase at the meeting and this will include why it was bought and all of those very valid concerns regarding biosecurity.

"But, I think the public have got the wrong end of the stick and it's doing a lot of damage to the event.

"We, as a council, unanimously approved the festival's business case, but the mud purchase was an operational decision."

He said in his view the whole thing had been blown out of proportion.

"We undoubtedly could have done a better job publicising this, it's a PR nightmare and we should have talked about these details months ago," Mr Sturt said.

Minister for Economic Development, Simon Bridges, whose office approved the $1.5m grant, said: "It is difficult to get enthusiastic about the mud purchase, but this was a decision for Rotorua council.

"In any event, the overall festival is a significant economic opportunity for Rotorua that we can be confident will generate strong economic returns."

Mr Bridges declined to answer questions regarding whether the mud purchase was part of the council's business case or if he had any concerns from a biosecurity standpoint.

The council's Operations and Monitoring Committee meets in the council chamber from 9.30am.

The meeting is open to the public.