Using a government grant to pay for $90,000 worth of South Korean mud for Rotorua's Mudtopia festival is worth every cent, says a long-serving district councillor.

But, not everyone thinks it was a great way to spend taxpayer money with many locals taking to social media to slam the idea.

Rotorua Lakes Council cultural adviser and councillor Trevor Maxwell said the perception ratepayer money would be used to import mud for the festival was unfair and misleading.

He said the arrangement was part of trying to make Rotorua's inaugural festival as good as it could be.


Five tonnes of South Korean mud will be imported to Rotorua for the first five Mudtopia festivals, at a cost of about $90,000.

The council's mud powder supply agreement with the Boryeong Mud Festival Foundation was signed by Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick and Boryeong mayor Kim Dong-il in South Korea last week.

Read more:
Rotorua imports $90K of mud for festival

The festival has received $1.5 million from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's major events development fund for five years, as well as support from sponsors and funders.

"I've been told it's been beautifully treated, but in the end mud is mud," Mr Maxwell said.

Rotorua Lakes councillor . 16 October 2015 Daily Post photograph supplied.
Rotorua Lakes councillor . 16 October 2015 Daily Post photograph supplied.

"I know there's a perception that Rotorua has enough mud, but you can't just pull any old mud out of the ground and throw it at people. There could be anything in there that could end up making people sick.

"We learned a lot from our trip [to South Korea] and we want to make sure our festival will be a success and this is all about that.

"It's not going to be easy, these events take time to be part of a community, it took time for the Korean festival to get so popular and now it's an iconic event.


Mr Maxwell said he could not believe how many westerners were there for the festival, "and it's also on the radar for everyone in Korea too".

"It's not ratepayer money, so give us a break. It's all about putting together a fun event to attract more people to our lovely district," Mr Maxwell said.

The imported Boryeong mud will make up about 15 per cent of the mud used in the inaugural Mudtopia Festival in Rotorua this December. The rest will come from a local quarry.

About 10 tonnes of mud is expected to be used in the first year of the event.

Rotorua Daily Post Facebook readers have slammed the expenditure saying Rotorua had enough mud of its own and the money should be used for other purposes like fixing potholes or housing the homeless.

The Taxpayers' Union has also waded in, with one of the organisation's researchers, Matthew Rhodes, saying he was astounded at the Government's decision to approve $1.5 million of funding for the festival and the council's decision to spend $90,000 buying mud.

"How MBIE and Rotorua Lakes Council think spending $90,000 on importing mud from overseas is a good idea is beyond imagination. It's like Dubai importing sand for a desert festival.

"Whether it's funded by the ratepayer or the taxpayer, either way it is still public money, and the council's attitude to this spending shows little regard for those who earned it," he said.

Council major events co-ordinator Jason Cameron said the Boryeong mud is sourced from the coastal areas of Daecheon Peninsula and will give Mudtopia visitors a different type of mud for a hands-on experience".

He said Rotorua geothermal mud, in the form of thermal clay, would be the main attraction.

Rotorua's Mudtopia festival includes a mud arena, spa and wellness experiences, and a concert headlined by Shapeshifter.

The "mud powder supply agreement"
- Rotorua Lakes Council bought $90,000 worth of mud powder to be used for the first five Mudtopia Festivals
- The mud comes from Boryeong City, South Korea, which holds its own mud festival every year
- Mudtopia has funding of $1.5m for five years from the Government's Major Events Development Fund
- The mud will feature in Rotorua at a Boryeong City interactive display
- Rotorua's Mudtopia Festival will be held at Arawa Park Racecourse from December 1-3