It was announced yesterday that Christchurch City Council has pulled its guarantee of making up the shortfall from the Ellerslie International Flower Show for 2015. Not really a surprise as the show was widely known to be on a knife-edge this year, but a shock nonetheless.
At the media briefing at this year’s show, people in the know were talking about the show being staged on alternate years only, or maybe even a North Island-South Island sharing of the show name from year to year.
This year’s show needed to sell a lot more tickets than in 2013 to impress the new Mayor and Christchurch City Council. This didn’t happen with ticket sales about the same as the previous year (44,500 over five days). The council bought the rights to show in 2007 for about $3 million, seen at the time as a pretty swift move by then-mayor Bob Parker.
But the first show in 2009 has been the only year it has made money in the South – this year’s show lost a record $516,000 and all up it has lost more than $900,000 since moving to Canterbury.
Ellerslie has had an annual budget of about $3 million and although the council owned the event, it never gave it any cash. The rub is, though, that ratepayers meet any loss. Read comment from the council’s finance committee chairman here, including $500,000 “is a lot for a flower show”.
An Aucklander has already, predictably, thrown a hat in the ring. Read more here. The Auckland Flower Show held the first year after Ellerslie headed south ended up a financial disaster and, as the Christchurch council owns the Ellerslie name (the brand) until 2016, the comments may simply be “fishing”.
In the same piece linked to above, Dave Mee, who is chief executive of the events company that runs the garden show, hints that Ellerslie’s contract workers could set up a rival show, even if only to keep themselves employed. Certainly, Kate Hillier, the show’s exhibitions manager and a member of the famous English horticultural family, could presumably run a show standing on her head.
But a thorny problem for the organiser of any show of this size, no matter where it’s held, is the quality of the display gardens. This year’s show was patchy, although the landscapers always seem to think they should have won gold! Much play was made of having English designer Paul Hervey-Brookes there, but with his “dry garden” full of dead tree trunks and branches it was an easy one not to “get”.
The “wow” moments were great, but the show overall wasn’t a “wow” and with the council trying to claw back cash any way it can, the omens weren’t good.