On Thursday the Hastings Council will discuss whether to ‘invest’ $100k of ratepayer dollars for a one-third ‘ownership interest’ in Horse of the Year (HOY).
Apparently this event, which HDC terms a “premier equestrian event in Australasia” isn’t quite premier enough to pay its own way. So HDC must ride to the rescue.
The rationale is old hat by now … it’s used for every event and attraction that catches the eye of Council spenders. There’s that magical multiplier effect. In this case, the claim is that the event generates $11.52 million in regional Gross Domestic Product. I tremble to think how well that calculation was vetted.
I, and I suspect most ratepayers, have nothing but admiration for HOY. It’s a terrific event, built up over the years, good weather or bad, by a dedicated Kevin Hansen. But the Mission Concert is a great event too, and attracts spending into the Bay. But when have ratepayers been asked to subsidise Rod Stewart’s visits? Get in line Mission Estate … you’re missing the gravy train!
Presumably HOY is a regional attraction, that simply happens to physically occur in Hastings. If any public money should be invested in HOY, why not Regional Council money? In fact, since whatever economic benefit there is flows primarily to the hospitality/tourism industry, why doesn’t Hawke’s Bay Tourism buy an ownership stake in what it regards as one of the three ‘signature’ events of the region’s social calendar?
HDC’s staff report says: “The option to not take up the one-third shareholding will require the Equestrian Sports New Zealand and Show Jumping Hawkes Bay to increase the shareholding in HOY Limited, something that either or both organisations may struggle to do. This could result in the HOY show not being secured for 15 years and the rights to the show being granted to another city.”
What? No private investors or corporate sponsors interested in continuation in Hawke’s Bay of the “premier equestrian event in Australasia”? Consider how quickly local sponsorship funds were gathered together to support a hockey team. What judgment is our local business and wealth elite making about this event and their dollars that our HDC Councillors believe they can make more wisely about our dollars?
One drawback might be that there’s no business plan yet. Imagine how far Riding for the Disabled would get asking HDC for $100k … even with a plan!
And then there’s the public’s judgment. This spending item, if approved by Council on Thursday will slip into the LTP process as a staff submission. In other words, it will escape the full public scrutiny — and opportunity to submit — that other spending proposals have had to endure over the past several weeks.
Another example of how easy it is to jump the normal obstacles when the Council is riding your horse.