Congratulations to Auckland City Council's arts, culture and recreation committee members who on Wednesday defied the protestations of the majority leader, Deputy Mayor David Hay, and voted to prop up next month's Pasifika Festival.
What has become the biggest Polynesian event in the world faced collapse after the flight of most of its sponsors, including several government agencies and businesses. The latter had been expected to fund more than half of what is now a $355,000 shortfall.
Labour councillor Glenda Fryer issued a statement after the part-confidential meeting claiming that chairman Greg Moyle had phoned Maungakiekie MP and Auckland City councillor Sam Lotu-Iiga "in desperation only to learn that there was nothing Sam could do because Gerry Brownlee [Leader of the House] ordered all government departments to halt their discretionary spending, including their sponsorship of the Pasifika Festival".
However, a spokesman for Mr Brownlee said last night "there's been no direction, instruction, hints, innuendo, eye wink whatever from Gerry on this issue".
The first he heard of the Pasifika problems was yesterday and he pointed out that one of Mr Brownlee's ministries, Economic Development, was in fact remaining as a sponsor this year and into the future. He said ministry officials were meeting Pasifika and Auckland City officials today to discuss the issue.
I couldn't track down either Mr Lotu-Iiga or Mr Moyle yesterday but discovered that both Creative New Zealand and Sport and Recreation New Zealand are hanging in - the latter with a $35,000 contribution.
Previous government-related sponsors dropping out, though, are Accident Compensation Corporation, Pacific Media Network, New Zealand Post and the Ministry of Education.
Mr Brownlee's spokesman couldn't resist pointing out that the Ministry of Education had indicated its decision to drop out on September 15 under the previous Labour Government. As for New Zealand Post, it issued a statement saying "New Zealand Post has not been approached by Government about sponsorship spending ... Auckland is an important community for us. It is correct that we are not continuing as a sponsor of the Pasifika Festival after a three-year association.
"However, this is a result of a refocusing and strengthening of our community support programmes in Auckland, including becoming the principal sponsor of the Auckland Festival 2009. We are currently developing other opportunities in liaison with Auckland City Council."
These denials came as a great relief. New Zealand Post has been a stand-out backer in the field of literature and the arts, as have many other SOEs. Genesis Energy's backing of NZ Opera comes to mind among many others.
That they would be forced out of the field by Government diktat would have been unconscionable.
But if that scare is over, what remains alarming is that the annual Pasifika Festival is in such a parlous state. As its website says, it has become a highlight of Auckland's events calendar, regularly attracting crowds of more than 225,000 and hundreds of performers from the Auckland region, the rest of the country and the Pacific.
This year, because of the funding crisis, the popular Friday night concert has had to be cancelled, leaving just the Saturday walkabout, with its performances, demonstrations and assorted stalls.
Surely Auckland can do better than this. We are the capital of the Pacific, with more people of Polynesian descent than anywhere else in the world. If we're looking for a point of difference to promote, both in attracting tourists and marketing our wares overseas, this is one we don't have to hire a glass tower full of consultants to invent.
A few years back, when the idea of reviving an Auckland Festival was being promoted, my proposal was to link the embryo Western arts festival with the highly popular Pasifika Festival, throw in ASB Polyfest, the Auckland Secondary Schools Maori and Pacific Islands Cultural Festival and have ourselves one hell of an annual party which was uniquely Auckland.
It would be a super festival which didn't just cater for arty-farties like myself who want to overdose on orchestras and string quartets and the like, but for everyone.
Hopefully a festival also which had everyone dipping their toes into events they would normally never imagine attending.
Also a festival which would earn a place on the crowded - and jaded - world festival calendar, attracting outside patronage because it was unique.
Back then, the gatekeepers of the various cultures preferred to keep to their separate paths. But with Pasifika now on emergency life support and funding being squeezed all round, what better time for a rethink.