Were the birthday celebration costs reasonable?
The costings for the Porirua City 50th birthday celebrations have finally been released. We chased the figures for several weeks and thought that, given the delay, there might be a bit of a dark story hidden in there.
In fact, by any assessment the council hit a good balance with its birthday spending.
All up the council spent $305,000 on the celebrations. On the face of it, that seems like something of a spend-up. However, all that money came from the council’s existing budget.
The biggest expense by far was the glitzy dinner at Te Rauparaha Arena on October 3, the focal point of the entire 50th celebrations. The dinner cost $164,000, but most of that money was offset by income from ticket sales, sponsorship and grants. The remaining $70,000 came from the council’s events budget.
We had no complaint about the spending for the dinner. If it had been done on the cheap we would have said it was not good enough for the special occasion. Instead the 600 or so who were there will remember the occasion for years.
The only criticism we heard about the dinner was that many Porirua residents could not afford the $100 ticket price and therefore felt excluded. That was indeed a pity, because some of those who could not attend were long-time residents struggling to get by on a pension.
There were a variety of other birthday-related events during the year, ranging from street barbecues to exhibitions at Pataka. The council was clever the way it pushed for major events like Festival of the Elements to have a bit of a 50th birthday theme. By doing so, it ensured the birthday celebration lasted throughout the year.
It is easy on occasions like a city’s jubilee to get carried away and spend up large on a party that actually takes years to pay off – a lot of money spent by an elite few on themselves.
Our assessment is that the council avoided that trap.
The Porirua 50th committee fell apart relatively early on, but that had no discernible adverse impact on the celebrations.
Perhaps some events in 2015 had their budgets trimmed a little to accommodate the 50th celebrations, but generally the council did a good job of acknowledging the special year for Porirua, while not hitting ratepayers in the pocket.
There are enough complaints in Porirua about rates as it is, and the last thing the council needed was to produce a balance sheet that showed vast sums of money had been spent for the benefit of an exclusive group.
That did not happen, and the council should be congratulated.