It was great to get a lot of feedback from BayBuzz readers about the controversy that has surrounded Horse of the Year (HOY).

Just to note … my comments in the last BayBuzz were made prior to the latest and most successful edition of the event – the last event to be managed by EventPro and the Hansen family.

This year’s Horse of the Year was incredible. Although some of the financials won’t be settled yet, the event was forecast to make a considerable profit.

Stallholder numbers were up, as was their revenue; entrants/competitors were also on par if not better than previous events; and gate sales were well above average. In fact I heard that 2014 gates sales were surpassed this year on Saturday, a day ahead.

So what’s the next development in the ongoing saga of Horse of the Year? With all of the success, I was actually hoping for some ‘making up’ to occur between the owners and the event managers. Perhaps someone would offer an olive branch.

However, the questions I posed previously still remain unanswered. And in fact, the board and owners of the event have been wearing a muzzle … or blinkers!

I hoped that someone would mediate and sort out what has become a very public mess.

I was at a lunch prior to the final event at HOY and I spoke with some stallholders, who, like us, hoped that someone would step in, sort it out and get the Hansens out of the paddock and back into the arena.

I also spoke with a couple of the local event managers bidding for the event. They spoke confidently about their prospects.

They, like many, hoped that the controlling trust would look favourably at the event being managed by locals rather than outsiders.

But speaking from experience, I regularly see our region’s decision makers getting sucked in by those that flaunt their national and international success. Therefore I doubt a local event manager will be successful.

To be clear, my concern with an outof-town event manager is not about their capability but more about how they would embrace the local community, especially the volunteer network and supplier businesses.

Will they be able to build an army of volunteers – an asset that the event heavily relies on? Will they understand the needs of all the local stakeholders? And will they show preference and loyalty to local suppliers?

This event currently has an economic benefit to the region of over $12 million, and some of this is due to the fact the Hansens gave priority to using local suppliers.

Lastly – what is the next event manager’s passion for making the event a success?

Will they jump ship or ask for more money when the going gets tough and their time sheets show they have spent more time than what was budgeted?

I also wonder what their actual loyalty might be to the region. If the event is at risk of moving elsewhere, such as Auckland, will they do everything to keep it here?

The trust now also has its report from Sport New Zealand. This independent review of the event, its structure and overall performance would by now have been digested by the board. Will this report now be a public document, or will we get a sanitised version?

As ratepayers, we are stakeholders in the event. We deserve to know what has gone on and what improvements have been recommended.

It may also shed some light on where things have gone wrong and clear up much of the innuendo regarding who hasn’t performed.

I’ve just been to the Sport New Zealand conference. The theme was “Walking in your Customers’ Shoes”.

We were told many times that we need to create events and experiences that are what our customer wants, not what we think they want.

For example, we heard from the marketing guru behind the highly successful Big Bash 20/20 Cricket in Australia. This is a cricket league that has targeted families and brought in new, exciting technologies to keep the fans entertained and engaged.

At some stage, an event like HOY will need to evolve and develop new ways of engaging with its customers.

All events eventually hit a flat line or experience less growth than previous years. HOY for 17 years has been growing, and it will take some innovative thinking to ensure that its customers continue to return.

Hastings ratepayers are investors in HOY, so please give them the courtesy of being transparent in the decisions that have been made. Horse of the Year is too great an event to go backwards.

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