Auckland's events scene is booming but there is concern over who is responsible for managing them - and how much we're paying, writes Bernard Orsman.
Team New Zealand had barely got its hands on the Auld Mug in Bermuda when talk turned to where the event would be based in Auckland.
Among the suggestions were Wynyard Quarter, an extension to Halsey Wharf and the Devonport Naval Base.
The third defence of the America's Cup in Auckland will be the biggest event in Auckland since the 2011 World Rugby Cup, bringing riches, excitement and a dose of drama to the City of Sails.
Auckland these days is a more vibrant and exciting city than in 2000 when Auckland's neglected Viaduct Basin was turned into an America's Cup Village. During the regatta, 65 Super Yachts filled the basin and 4.2 million visited the village.
Since the painful loss of the cup in 2003, Auckland has matured into an events city, hosting major competitions like the rugby and cricket World Cups and this year's World Masters Games.
These have been complemented with annual showpieces like the Auckland Gay Parade, ASB tennis, Pasifika, Diwali and Lantern festivals, contributing to a sense of identity for the Super City.
The events calendar is on a roll, with the likes of Adele, Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay packing Mt Smart Stadium, the excitement of the Lions test series and Matilda The Musical opening next month at the Civic Theatre.
Beatles legend Paul McCartney arrives here in December for his first show in New Zealand since 1993 and last week US pop star Katy Perry announced she would bring her world tour here in 2018. Add to those upcoming shows by Ariana Grande, Bruno Mars, Cat Stevens and Harry Styles, and it's clear Auckland is a permanent fixture on the tour schedules of the stars.
They are big business, pumping millions into Auckland's economy each year.
But as the talk intensifies for the next phase of the America's Cup, the Auckland Council is starting to question the business of running events in Auckland.
As far back as 2011, a report argued there was too much double-up, prompting the case for streamlining.
Ratepayers are funding these organisations and, five years on from the report, one senior finance councillor says there is still huge double-up. It's a fine balance - securing Auckland's position on the international events calendar, but ensuring the benefits outweigh the costs.
The council has two main bodies running events - Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) and Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA).
The council itself is responsible for some events while Panuku Development Auckland also holds events at Wynyard Quarter.
In a nutshell, Ateed is responsible for major events like the NRL Nines, V8 Supercars and the World Masters Games, big cultural festivals like the Lantern Festival, Diwali and Pasifika and dips into smaller events like the Auckland Marathon and Splore music festival.
Regional Facilities runs the city's major event venues like the Aotea Centre, Civic Theatre, Mt Smart and Western Springs stadiums for Warriors matches, big name concerts like Adele, musicals, classical music and ballet. It runs the Auckland Art Gallery and Auckland Zoo, and gives money to Auckland Museum, Motat, Stardome and the Maritime Museum.
Meanwhile, Auckland Council runs regional events like Music in Parks, helps Local Boards with events like the Parnell Festival of Roses, organises civic events like Anzac Day and takes bookings for local halls and parks.
To further confuse the bureaucracy, Ateed also provides sponsorship for big RFA events, like the Adele concerts. Ateed boss Brett O'Riley says the money attracts domestic visitors from outside Auckland and promotes the city internationally. Sponsorship amounted to $65,000 in the 2015-2016 year.
Then there's Panuku, which spends $686,000 on events like Silo Cinema and Silo Markets at Wynyard Quarter. This month it handed over the Cloud and Shed 10 on Queens Wharf to RFA to manage.
Auckland Transport is also involved, providing support to about 30 events a year.
All up, the events business costs more than $100 million a year, half of which is funded by ticket sales, sponsorships and stallholders and the other half by ratepayers.
The concern focuses particularly on overlap between Ateed and RFA.
Desley Simpson, the centre-right Orakei councillor promoted into mayor Phil Goff's inner circle as deputy chair of the finance committee, is forthright when it comes to streamlining the events business.
There is, she says, a huge double-up between Ateed, RFA and council, which has to change if the council is to find savings to deliver on infrastructure.
Simpson says the impending 10-year budget and the value for money programme across council services are a wake-up call to stop doing things that Aucklanders don't value.
"No-one knows who runs which events. I'm interested in what is best value for money for events and that has to happen sooner rather than later," says Simpson, who questions whether RFA would be better running Ateed's events programme.
The concern is shared by Goff, who campaigned on "doing more with less".
He is rolling out a series of "value for money" reviews that include looking at how those bodies deliver economic development activities across the wider council group.
He is not pre-determining the outcome, but is focused on savings across council activities to increase spending on transport and housing.
It's political as well as financial. Goff's first budget was called an "absolute shocker" that "could only drag 0.03 per cent of savings out of council's bureaucracy" by the political publication, Town Hall, published by one of Goff's former private secretaries, James Bews-Hair.
Asked whether the America's Cup is an opportunity to streamline the events business at council, Goff is careful to point out Auckland has not been confirmed as the host city and it's too early to say how it could deliver the event.
But he believes the private sector should pay much of the cost of hosting the event.
The mayor has also opened the door for the accommodation sector to play a role in events through his recently introduced "bed tax" that will raise $14m to fund spending by Ateed to attract visitors and events to the city.
"We have invited expressions of interest to participate in an advisory group to determine the accommodation sector's role in the governance of Ateed. They will have views on how we attract, fund and deliver events in Auckland," he says.
In 2011, senior officials at Ateed and RFA recognised a "significant overlap" between themselves in the events space and drew up a list of recommendations to work together on events, sporting and entertainment programmes.
Among the recommendations were a co-ordinated "whole of portfolio" approach to staging events in Auckland, Ateed and RFA making joint bids to secure major events and agreeing a pricing policy for Ateed to use RFA facilities.
RFA chief operating officer Paul Brewer says the recommendations of the July 2011 report reflected an environment where the two CCOs were learning about the relative roles and responsibilities.
"A more sophisticated approach is now in place that understands the complementary roles of each of the CCOs," Brewer says.
"RFA and Ateed collaborate to attract events to Auckland and to activate our city. Our roles and responsibilities are complementary and reflect the core competencies of each organisation."
Regional Facilities runs along commercial lines and raised $50.8m of its $81.7m budget last year from ticket sales and other income, whereas Ateed has economic and social goals for the Auckland region, such as attracting visitors to fill the city's hotels, bars and restaurants.
This year, Ateed has an $18.3m budget for events and conventions. Last year, it raised about $1m from events.
On better co-ordination for staging events, Brewer says Ateed bids for major events, such as the Volvo Round the World Yacht Race and RFA has close relationships with domestic and international live entertainment.
RFA's pricing strategy includes an Auckland Council group rate that Ateed is eligible for, Brewer said.
Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley, who will stand down in September after five years at the helm, says Ateed is the lead agency in the development and delivery of major events in Auckland, which is part of its wider mandate in all areas of economic growth.
Since the major events strategy was adopted in 2011, O'Riley says Ateed-sponsored events have contributed $247m to the regional economy and 1.55m visitor nights.
In the past financial year, Ateed invested a fraction over $9.5m in major events, generating more than $43m, says O'Riley. That included more than 280,000 visitor nights.
RFA also points to the economic benefits, saying last summer's seven-concert line-up attracted more than 126,000 people from outside Auckland and boosted the city's economy by $37.7m.
There's little doubt the numbers are impressive. But as well as concern over the double-up, there is a renewed emphasis on getting the right events here.
Councillor John Watson, who has followed RFA's strategy to make better use of its stadiums, says the city needs to focus on big income events that fill the city's stadiums, not events that require big dollops of money with little or no return.
That era has gone and been replaced with tight spending constraints for much-needed investment in transport, says Watson, who believes there is merit in RFA, as owner of council facilities, having overall responsibility for events.
There is also a view, expressed recently by Auckland Art Gallery's director Rhana Devenport, that tourism agencies do not support the arts.
She told Canvas magazine in May that the economic impact of the gallery to Auckland in 2014-2015 was $70m - a financial return of $10 for every $1 the city invests in the gallery - "good value for money".
This year's record-breaking Gottfried Lindauer exhibition and the just closed Body Laid Bare: Masterpieces from the Tate, an exhibition of nudes by big names, would help to attract more than half a million visitors, many of whom would have come from outside Auckland, Devenport said.
"We don't receive any significant support from tourism agencies. Many tourism agencies here really only see sports events or festivals as events."
Brewer, a former marketing and communications director at Te Papa, is sympathetic to the plight of the art gallery and would like to see it hold blockbuster shows with the pulling power of 160,000 to 200,000 visitors.
The cost of such a show, similar to the recent Picasso exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, is about $2m - less than the $3m allocation for the first year of the NRL Nines at Eden Park.
Devenport has a valid point - but it would be hard to make a case that hosting such an auspicious event as the next America's Cup does not deserve focus.
Come 2021, the foundations must be right and the burden on the ratepayer balanced.
Goff says, if it goes ahead in Auckland as expected, "we will expend every effort to make sure that our hosting of the America's Cup defence is a success".
"That's important because the eyes of the world will be on us."
It takes two to deliver
Auckland ratepayers are paying millions of dollars and employing about 45 staff to run two convention businesses with almost identical names - Auckland Conventions run by RFA and the Auckland Convention Bureau run by Ateed.
On paper, the two organisations are delivering. Over the past five years, Ateed boss Brett O'Riley says, the bureau has secured $130m of business events for Auckland, including 61 events worth $54m to the city in the past financial year.
Last year alone the bureau won 11 events for RFA venues, worth $5.38m, he says.
Auckland Council's deputy finance committee chair, Desley Simpson, says from the outside it looks like having two convention business doing the same thing is a waste of money.
"Is it better we put them together and have one business? Of course it is," she says.
That's not a view shared by the two council-controlled organisations, which argue they fulfil complementary roles.
Auckland Conventions manages and delivers events across RFA's venues, including the Aotea Centre, ANZ Viaduct Events Centre and Bruce Mason Centre. It employs 35 permanent and one casual staff member.
The Auckland Convention Bureau has a broader role for attracting conference and business events to grow Auckland's economy. Its membership includes RFA and SkyCity. It employs 10 staff and has budgeted to spend $2.2m this financial year.
O'Riley and RFA operating officer Paul Brewer say the two bodies work closely with one another.
O'Riley says the Auckland Convention Bureau is responsible for the overall promotion of Auckland as a destination for conferences and conventions and helps 116 members access Tourism New Zealand's Conference Assistance Programme.
Auckland Conventions, on the other hand, promotes and sells events for RFA sites only, says Brewer.
"This is additional to, and complementary to, the Auckland Convention Bureau work."
A SkyCity spokesman says the Auckland Convention Bureau and Tourism New Zealand have been responsible for securing four conferences for the new international convention centre under construction.
The conferences, including the World Veterinary Association, will generate 15,000 bed nights and $11 million in economic benefit, the spokesman says.