Spending the rates: $14,000 for midnight tickets to The Hobbit

Ratepayers will have been surprised to learn that a council organisation spent $14,000 buying 750 tickets to a screening of The Hobbit at the Embassy. The expenditure was revealed on the same day that councillors debated whether or not such organisations, each with its own board and staff, should be allowed to continue.

The $14,000 was spent eight weeks ago by Positively Wellington Tourism. It might never have been discovered except for the fact that it was for the first Embassy screening at midnight on December 12 – and fans queueing on Wednesday night to buy tickets to the same screening weren’t told that the show had been sold out.

Positively Wellington Tourism hasn’t explained how buying 750 tickets would support its brief of promoting tourism in the capital city. Once it was found out, it decided to give them all away – some to the unhappy queuers, and the rest in a “luck of the draw lottery.” Which isn’t likely to do anything to bring more visitors to Wellington.

Nevertheless, councillors yesterday decided that all their council controlled organisations should be allowed to continue. Even Wellington Waterfront Ltd. For a third time, they received a report recommending that the company’s activities be brought in house. For a third time, the company lobbied for its own survival. Its chief executive told the DomPost that its work needed continuity. Its chair defended the company at yesterday’s meeting of the council’s strategy and policy committee. The vote was tied. The company survived thanks to a casting vote in its favour by committee chair Andy Foster.

The decision means the company continues till 2015. In that year its work is supposed to be completed and the company is supposed to be closed down. But no doubt, there’ll be a fourth round of lobbying for its life to continue.

As for Positively Wellington Tourism, its council-appointed board members (who include Councillor Jo Coughlan, and Glenys Coughlan who is also CEO of Positively Wellington Venues, another council company) should be asking hard questions about the expenditure of $14,000 for midnight movie tickets.

Wellington tourism worth $2600 a minute, says PWT

The costly record of Wellington Waterfront Ltd


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