Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Promoters from abroad line up for council cash

Events like Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park are waiting anxiously for word that Auckland Council will keep the sponsorships. Photo / APN
Events like Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park are waiting anxiously for word that Auckland Council will keep the sponsorships. Photo / APN

Big-time event promoters from all over the world are lining up for Auckland ratepayer subsidies - raising fears that home-grown drawcards will miss out on the city's multimillion-dollar sponsorship splurge.

Events such as the Coca-Cola Christmas in the Park and the Samoan and Maori Sports Awards are waiting anxiously for word that Auckland Council will keep the long-standing sponsorships extended by the region's former councils.

Far from taking a breather after last year's Rugby World Cup effort, the Super City has announced it is wooing international promoters in the hope of making it a global events destination.

The council-controlled agency charged with boosting the economy of Auckland through major events held a media briefing on Wednesday.

It was revealed that the agency was overwhelmed by offers when it called for events of national and international interest in return for ratepayer-funded sponsorship.

Offers to stage 83 high-profile, crowd-pulling events in the city seek a total of $19 million in handouts.

The agency has only $1.9 million in the kitty to allocate for the current year.

This is exclusive of what the city will spend this year to host the Volvo Ocean Race stopover, the World Rally Championship and the World Triathlon Championship.

"It gives you a scale for the requests for funding and what we have to allocate," said Rachael Dacy, who is destination manager for Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed).

She would not identify the offerings.

Ms Dacy said applications were being assessed by a panel formed from representatives of Ateed, the Association of Event Professionals and the Covec economic consultancy.

"They will be given priority on the basis of the best return for the Auckland ratepayer."

Successful bidders would be announced in the next two months, she said.

They had to pass the Ateed five-point test which is set out in the region's first cohesive Auckland Events Strategy.

Ms Dacy said that in order to grab events from international cities, Ateed had asked the council for a rise of$10 million a year in the long-term budget.

But in light of the recession, the bid was toned down to $3 million extra provision in the 2012-13 year and incrementally growing through to the end of the decade.

In return, the strategy aims to expand Auckland's economy by $80 million in 20 years, as well as increase the number of nights that visitors spend in Auckland - from 55,000 to 250,000.

The aim is to gather a portfolio of regular events that will make Auckland famous instead of "one-offs", like the Rugby World Cup.

It seeks one regular event which attracts high levels of international media coverage in 2012-13, expanding to four-plus regular events in 2020-21.

Ms Dacy said Ateed expected to make a commitment to existingevents.

It supported 35 events last year.

"But we will ask: 'How do we grow, how do we get more value and make them bigger and better?' But we are also wanting to keep the portfolio fresh and rotate and have some new events coming through to give Aucklanders a new experience."

Ms Dacy said the drive for financially successful events which also brought visitors to stay and spend and do business would not snub a "social anchor" event like the Pasifika Festival.

The strategy defines a social anchor event as involving at least 200,000 people and making Auckland a more attractive place for talented people to live.

Other examples of regular major events are the Lantern festival, New Zealand Fashion Week, Auckland Marathon and Auckland Arts Festival.

However, the strategy's focus on major events means it passes on regional and community events to the council and local boards.

Christmas in the Park has applied to Ateed for a subsidy. Executive producer Alan Smythe fears it fails to meet all the new economic requirements, even though it sets off Ateed's "happy place" indicators.

He has appealed to the council to make the 20-year-old event a special case.

"The event needs an amount set aside and guaranteed for as long as Coca-Cola are prepared to cover the great majority of event costs."

- NZ Herald

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