City councillors are unrepentant about rejecting an application, involving former councillor John Morrison, which asked the council to spend $200,000 on an unconfirmed plan for a visit by a group of business people from India.
A council panel said no because there wasn’t enough time to plan the event, there was no confirmation of who would be coming, and – a dealbreaker perhaps – because the under-developed proposal included a $50,000 management fee which councillors believed would be paid to John Morrison and his campaign manager Iain Morrison.
Panel members were also dubious about the programme being over-loaded with too many formal lunches and dinners.
“This proposal was based on the germ of a good idea but was too little, too late,” said deputy mayor Justin Lester, who is a member of the three-person panel which turned down the request for money. “The proposal was not robust enough to warrant the allocation of ratepayer funding..”
The proposal was to create business promotion activities during a seven-day visit to Wellington by a group of Indian businessmen who, the councillors were told, planned to come here to watch this week’s test match at the Basin Reserve. From a total cost of $293,000, the council was asked to pay $200,000 which would have been spent on venue hire for a trade fair, displays for the trade event, five formal lunches (costing $75,000) and an administration and management fee (of $50,000).
The council panel (its other two members are the mayor and Councillor Jo Coughlan) did not receive any formal application or business case. Instead, members were given a report written by a council officer and based on a series of meetings with John Morrison and Iain Morrison, who were working on behalf of Cricket Wellington.
The panel agreed that there was an impressive list of invitees, however there was no firm indication of who would accept.
Justin Lester told the Wellingtonian that the proposal lacked a proper budget, delegates’ attendance was not confirmed, and there were reservations about the management fee.
When the panel said no late last month, members felt there were risks around co-ordinating a successful programme given the limited preparation time between a decision being made in late January and the visiting delegates’ proposed arrival on 11 February. There was also insufficient time to involve the Wellington business community.
The council has defended the panel’s decision since the Wellingtonian published criticism from John Morrison about its lack of support.
“To provide some context, a separate funding request for a major (new) Wellington event was considered during December,” said Councillor Lester. “The request was approved unanimously and will be announced by the recipient organisation in the near future.”