Auckland Santa Parade to lose public events funding

Vanita Prasad (Newsroom)
Auckland, November 17, 2018

The Auckland Children’s Christmas Parade T
(Published by Newsroom)
Auckland’s Santa Parade faces an uncertain future as the City’s event Agency withdraws funding past this year because of a new policy.
While next week’s 85th installment of the annual parade will go ahead as planned, it is set to make a $100,000 operating loss without the help of eleventh hour financial aid.
Despite the support of several commercial sponsors and help from more than 1000 volunteers, it is the second year in a row that the Parade will run at a major deficit, having fallen short last year by $78,000.
Combination of factors
Farmers Santa Parade General Manager Pam Glaser said a combination of rising costs and diminishing support from some major sponsors had made it increasingly difficult to secure funding for the event which attracts around 100,000 spectators to downtown Auckland.
She said that while the Auckland Children’s Christmas Parade Trust was still well supported by naming rights sponsor Farmers, the Parade organisers are frustrated to lose ATEED funding under the Agency’s new 2018-2025 Major Events Strategy.
ATEED’s General Manager of Destination Steve Armitage said that the renewed framework came as Auckland’s Mayor and Council  look for alternative revenue streams to reduce the dependency on ratepayers.
The Agency says the new strategy has been designed to deliver what Auckland needs under it’s long-term Destination AKL 2025 strategy which aims to grow tourism and the local economy in a sustainable way.
Santa Parade not fit
Armitage said the Farmers Santa Parade no longer fits.
“This is based on the fact that it is not a big driver of domestic tourism into Auckland, unlike the Chinese Lantern Festival and Diwali where we have a programme of activity which is sustained for a period, for Lantern, around a week.
“We are able to package up a whole lot of things that happen around the City and promote that and attract visitation.”
When asked for data on Farmers Santa Parade visitor nights, ATEED could only provide Newsroom with figures from the 2016/2017 financial year for which 1380 visitor nights were attributed to the event. In the same year Auckland’s Diwali Festival and Lantern Festival attracted 1450 and 2810 bed nights respectively.
No comparison
The Events Agency says the data can’t be compared like-for-like as the criteria for funding the events is different, but Glaser says it’s a case of ATEED prioritising its own events stable.
He says the Farmers Santa Parade better fits into Auckland Council ’s event funding model.
“The Santa Parade is a one-off event that takes place over a few hours on one weekend a year and is not really targeted to attract people in from out of the city, it’s more about allowing local residents the opportunity to celebrate Christmas.
“So in that regard it’s more of a community event than a major event. It’s about engaging residents and providing experiences for Aucklanders.”
Pride Parade ticked
However, based on those same distinctions Armitage hasn’t ruled out continuing funding for the 2020 Pride Parade.
“The Auckland Pride Parade is continuing to see solid growth in terms of attendance at the parade and attracting visitors from outside of Auckland which we believe also has good potential to expand further.
“The event is an important celebration of Auckland’s diversity, creating an opportunity to showcase Auckland to an international and domestic audience.”
Armitage said like all events seeking funding for the 2019/20 Auckland Pride Parade organisers will be required to submit an application for support out of the national events programme.
When asked if Auckland Council  had made plans to make up for this decline in funding Auckland Council  Manager Events David Burt said it was unable to confirm until mid 2019.
“Funding for the Santa Parade will be considered alongside the range of other events that the Auckland Council  group supports annually and within the overall budget available for event funding assistance.”
Council ’s decision
Glaser said it was time for the Council  to demonstrate if it values the parade.
She said that the loss of storage space, clean-up funds and expertise provided to the trust by the Council  in past years has also contributed to increased costs.
Burt said that the Council  used to provide storage in the old City Works Depot but when it sold, the Santa Parade had to look elsewhere.
Storage Costs
The trust secured two storage facilities in Newton, one for its floats in a large private storage facility and the second for costumes in a Council-owned building.
Burt said that storage costs had been charged since June 2015 and before that accommodation support was provided equivalent to the cost of storage.
“The Regional Events Grant of $15,000 paid this year largely covers the current storage rental of the costume facility.”
The Auckland Santa Parade is not alone in its financial struggles with other regional parades also needing funding interventions in recent years.
Last week reported Christchurch City Councillors’ confusion as to why its Santa Parade was not classed as a major event and supported by the City’s Event Agency.
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