Ratepayers will pay $25,000 for a fireworks display to mark Auckland Anniversary Weekend.

But the new Auckland Council events agency's choice for celebrating what it bills as "our 171st birthday" is under fire.

Told about the plan yesterday, councillor Cameron Brewer said it seemed an ill-conceived splurge on civic pride.

"Given the economic climate, rising rates and the fact that SkyCity let off $100,000 worth of fireworks last week, I don't think a majority of Aucklanders would have signed this off if they were given a chance.

"We've got 60,000 extra people in Auckland at Labour Weekend for the Rugby World Cup. We should be saving the big fireworks for then ... when the images are carried to an international audience and picked up by the world's media.

"I've never heard of a 171st birthday being celebrated with such fanfare and public expense."

Mr Brewer is chairman of the council's economic development forum and its business advisory panel. But he said the fireworks decision was not debated by elected representatives who are accountable to ratepayers.

The move instead came from a council-controlled organisation, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development.

Event director David Daniela said the New Year's Eve "Hot in the City" display - boosted by the $150,000 gift display put on by German businessman Kim Schmitz - was a hard act to follow.

"It won't be as big as New Year's Eve, where $250,000 was spent on fireworks, I think. But it will be a lovely display to celebrate the birthday of the new Auckland as one city."

The January 1 event was launched from platforms on the Sky Tower and barges off the city's waterfront and lasted 10 minutes.

Mr Daniela said the barge-based display on January 30 would be for 12 minutes.

He was unable to say how much the event would cost, but industry sources said the budget was close to $25,000.

It would be produced by FusedFX, the New Zealand agent for Australian company Howard & Sons, which created the pyrotechnics for the Delhi Commonwealth Games closing ceremony.

Mr Daniela said more was being spent on fireworks than in other anniversary weekends because fireworks "give more bang for your buck" and could be appreciated by a wider audience than other events.

Dr Martin Van Tiel, who co-ordinated the Sky Tower and Schmitz-sponsored displays, said worldwide interest in the New Year's Eve extravaganza "put Auckland back on the map as an international city".