Whanganui ratepayers spent $15,000 on reality TV show Dancing with the Stars to "amplify" the participation of a local contestant.
Whanganui District Council's economic development agency lists $15,000 for the show alongside money for a range of local events on its 2018/19 funding register.
This year's Dancing with the Stars on Three features Whanganui police officer and former All Black Glen Osborne.
When quizzed about the spend by Whanganui district councillor Rob Vinsen, Whanganui and Partners chief executive Mark Ward said the money was for "sponsorship of the programme".
"[It's] sponsorship of the programme through the programme network. They go out to sponsors across the country," Ward said during his regular report to council.
But when questioned by the Chronicle about why it was sponsoring the show Ward said the money was for a Whanganui promotional video to run on the show's on demand service and link to the Visit Whanganui website while Osborne would have radio interviews where he would talk about Whanganui.
It was advertising "without being classical advertising".
Ward said it was to: "Amplify our candidate in there through a whole lot of media channels. It was sort of advertising but definitely not sponsorship.
"For the sort of coverage we are getting we made sure it was bang for buck for Whanganui... levering off what was essentially free advertising for Whanganui."
Ward said it was listed in the Whanganui and Partners funding register "to make sure that the public are aware that we did invest in that programme".
The placement is part of a national campaign marketing Whanganui as a place to visit or live.
Other events Whanganui and Partners have funded in the past year include $17,000 for the Whanganui Walls street art festival, $40,000 for Cemetery Circuit, $30,000 for Vintage Weekend, $25,000 for Artists Open Studios, and $40,000 for the Masters Games and $20,000 for the CoLab glass conference.
Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall said he was rapt with the social media footage resulting from the Whanganui Walls spend of $17,000.
"We know visitors love Whanganui. They want to come back and they would like to spend more money than they are able to spend now," he said.
Ward said while visitors loved Whanganui there was a lack of activities and amenities for them to spend on. Whanganui and Partners will be working on that this winter.
"We would need a person with the strategic ability and overview to get alongside council funding to add value - for example the digital experience that surrounds an event," Ward said.
Meanwhile, Ward said there was "a tinge of risk" in the education sector due to planned Government changes to tertiary education. But business in Whanganui was growing well, with a larger Bunnings store planned and interest in Mill Rd industrial sections.
Whanganui and Partners has made 10 applications to the Provincial Growth Fund - for the port, to extend the pilot academy, for the Sarjeant Gallery.
It will not be investing in rebranding.
"We have got a great brand. We have just honoured the one of the champions behind that brand [the late Jonathan Russell]," Ward said.
Whanganui and Partners board chairman Myles Fothergill said the economic development organisation had been through some "rough patches" and it was a delight to have Ward heading it.
Councillor Jenny Duncan was pleased to see the figures he presented.
"Thanks for providing us with some credible financials. It's the first time we have ever received anything like this from Whanganui and Partners," she said.