Accounting for a conference

[Dunedin Brand] We do underwriting here

### ODT Online Tue, 3 Aug 2010
Dunedin in contention for major conference
By Chris Morris
Dunedin appears to have the frontrunning in a two-city race to host a major international botanic garden conservation conference, which could bring hundreds of experts – and millions of dollars – to the city.

The council would be expected to cover the estimated $800,000 cost of hosting the event, but would aim to make a small projected profit of $15,000 thanks to sponsorship agreements and subscription payments from participants.
-Alan Matchett, Dunedin City Council

Read more

Post by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Economics, Geography, Heritage, People, Politics, Project management

47 responses to “Accounting for a conference

  1. Anonymous

    Risk $800K
    Get back $15K

    1.8% return.
    Put the $800K in the bank instead.

  2. kate

    I do not believe these matters have come across Councillors papers. Interesting concept, bid for event and get approval later for costs or maybe it is already in projected plans. The quandary of operational or governance and I am sure there will be benefits to associated hospitality businesses.

    • Elizabeth

      Kate, that’s a $1 million or more for the realignment of Lovelock Ave (which I’m dead against) – I understand the funding happened (via staff) BEFORE the RMA matters were attended to (each day I wake up to new DCC ways of cracking the nut), and NOW a happy $800,000 conference spend is possible (call it a $1 million, it’s not far off) without councillor approval.

      So Mick Reece knows how to shift the mountain obviously. wtf

      I’m sorry, but ratepayers cannot spend $800,000 on an EVENT (not bricks and mortar) to fund struggling hospitality businesses et al in the city. WHY ON EARTH SHOULD THIS HAPPEN.*

      Add in the DCC’s staff led $500,000 marketing and branding strategy – that would steal a person’s IP (or many persons’ IP if they enter blindly) via the Insiders campaign – IT’S SICK. IT’S UNETHICAL. And that’s just the budget.

      And we wonder WHY councillors have to GO in October. Jeepers.
      Councillors, you need to get a grip, FAST. Staff have got you hamstrung.

      *We’ve been lined up to underwrite the new stadium’s events and conferences, we hear – no money left for botanic garden junkets. Besides, the Botanic Garden (the place) could do with a major capital investment…what’s left after a conference sitting, lolly papers?

  3. Calvin Oaten

    Not to mention the $4.5 million plus cost per annum to the ratepayers for the Town Hall/Conference Centre, programmed in the feasibility study. And that is only if the projected performance from 2016 onwards, results in at least 36 conferences a year compared with the 16 in 2008.

    • Elizabeth

      Calvin, I completely see the fact and the irony, however the Dunedin Centre Redevelopment was fully consulted and is designed to attract building users of many kinds – NOT for each thieving department of DCC to run its own conferences from, at a loss to ratepayers ~!!!!!!!

      On second thoughts, it wasn’t fully consulted because we didn’t grill DCC on that own end use. Bugger. The launchpad for the Dunedin entertainment industry thrives at the Civic Centre.

  4. kate

    Elizabeth the decisions this Council has made are a result of bad process as much as bad logic. Familiarity breeds contempt of process in my mind and we need a healthier friction between staff and Councillors and the public and more transparency to provide for that. Interestingly Chris Staynes brought up the possibility of a paperless Council at F&S yesterday and poor Mr Donut didnt get how he wouldn’t need to use his printer.

    • Elizabeth

      We once had an impassioned office manager at the NZ Masters Games Office who lived for the thought of a paperless office. So long as someone is keeping the council record in a safe digital state, backed up to hell as is typical for a large ‘office’, then less paper is possible but not full deletion – since you guys are in the business of supplying information to those without access to laptops, desktops, mobiles, pads and printers for a very long time to come. But it starts small, Councillors don’t need papers for meetings. Nor do they need more donuts, leads to heart attack and stroke.

  5. Peter

    This seems to be a very clear example of DCC senior managers running amok, making major funding decisions without councillors’ knowledge and approval. In one sense I feel sorry for their predicament because they are the ones who are left facing up to the resulting furore when they appear to have been blind-sided. However, it does emphasise that there are not enough canny councillors in there to keep check and ASK GOOD QUESTIONS. There is a power or governance vacuum in the DCC and bureaucracy steps in and does what it likes. Instead we are left with the likes of Michael Guest making inane donut analogies about pessimists and optimists. Or a councillor asking if it was alright to ask questions! Yes, that’s right.

  6. kate

    Peter I am not sure that senior managers are running amok – that requires a state of mind that I do not believe exists – it is the lack of questioning by those entitled and duty bound to ask questions that have allowed processes to get sloppy. That is why Greater Dunedin believes that there are substantial operational costs to be saved without affecting performance or service delivery. Simply we have not as a Council required or promoted innovation or clever savings and focussed on it. There are many fantastic staff who cannot take their projects or ideas forward as they do not have an avenue or relationship with the Council to do so. Some savings are made by suggestion and informal arrangements, but not proactively by Council per se.

    • Elizabeth

      Before I run off to explode, or possibly buy donuts…we have to get DCC past the PC governance management split. Tough decisions and tough handling and digging into every manager’s ‘portfolio’ with a chainsaw. How soon.

      Kate, my new philosophy (I got it from the farm…):


  7. kate

    Elizabeth are you hoping there is going to be a change in the LGA? If the relationships change I am very confident a new Council can change things markedly within the interesting governance operational split that we have.

    Donuts by their nature disappoint – there is nothing in the centre – dont go there – we deserve fully rounded councillors, not empty ones!!!!

    • Elizabeth

      Kate t’day I turned desperate and will go above the flipping LGA law.
      You’re now officially in cowgirl country.

  8. Anonymous

    When the Emperor is finally discovered to have no clothes, then he will be carrying two cups of coffee and a half-dozen donuts.

  9. kate

    No Elizabeth you are in Cowgirl country – not that from where I live that is such a bad thing, but as bad as some of our processes are, there are some lines that one should not cross for the sake of the ratepayer.

  10. Phil

    I’m going to put in my 2 cents on the paperless Council. Which is a great idea. This is how I recall it working. A paper document, such as a letter or an invoice, comes in to council. It then gets scanned and stored on an electronic database, with a copy emailed to the recipient within council. What is the first thing that person does ? They print it out so that they can read it. It’s a human nature thing, people like looking at paper. Then, more of then than not, a few days later the original paper document arrives on the recipient’s desk via the internal mail system. The result ? 2 paper copies instead of the original one. And a computer storage system demanding 400 Gigawatts of cooling a year.

  11. kate

    If reports are read and not questioned then they can be read online once – further if the reports include lots of photos it is cheaper to see online. Agendas could be paper but reports of which we all get copies could be online only – I am happy to read most online and take notes. Certainly would assist the housework around the mountains of papers!

  12. Calvin Oaten

    The Dunedin Town Hall/Conference Centre may well have been fully consulted as you say. Over some six years or more the concept changed more than I had feeds in the same period. How can that be seriously consulted? The final model given the green light was based on a feasibility study commissioned by Kate Styles who refused to divulge its contents until I demanded it under the LGOIA. It shows the option selected requiring 36 conferences per year from 2016 onward, compared with 16 achieved in 2008, and even then it will lose over $4.5million per year. The amount budgeted in the 2010/11 Plan, including borrowing costs (there goes that capitalisng interest bit again) is $51.5million.
    Now how many councillors understood all that? I bet Mr Donut didn’t.

  13. kate

    Elizabeth could we have a different thread about what DCC might look like with a paperless Council – along some of the lines in some of the threads here – maybe not as far as twittering all meetings – my view and Richard’s are different enough let alone what staff and media might say! But if people were in the gallery it would be interesting to hear what they hear – I do find that we as councillors and as audiences hear what we want to hear and disregard the rest – part lines from some song I think – apologies – I wonder why we are not allowed to be broadcast? Times are a changing (more lyrics) and we need to if that is the demand – would anyone really want to hear about questions on Karitane toilets at the reserve? Between twitter and blogs generally and traditional media what do people want = or is it more a matter of us being more transparent with our papers and what does that mean?

  14. Peter

    The Botanic Garden Conservation Conference planned for 2013 – if we get it – is going to use the stadium as one of the venues for the the conference. They are using other venues too, but not the DC. I guess that means one down for the Dunedin Centre for a possible conference. Ahh… healthy competition…at our expense.
    I remember Malcolm spoke of ‘a plethora of cafes/restaurants’ at the stadium. That must have clinched the conference market for them.

  15. Richard

    As I observed yesterday, ‘a paperless council agenda (et al)’ is now probably a practical reality for the first time in this computer age with the arrival of the “iPad”.

    And it is likely to revolutionise paperwork in many other working environments e.g. teaching in schools.

    As for the proposal by one GD Candidate who thinks he will have time to tweet from around the council/committee table … well, he is due for a shock … should he be elected!

    Oh yes: “an out-of-date aspirin in cold soup’, is apparently the diet meal of choice for those who immerse themselves in ‘The Culture of Complaint’.

  16. Richard

    We are “allowed” to broadcast or telecast. But – and it’s a big but – Council would have to pay for it.

  17. Richard

    Capitalising of Interest only occurs during construction. Once a project is completed, it is expensed. Both in accord with Accounting Standards. Doh!

  18. Richard

    Governance and Management

    The simple fact is that while the LGA clearly defines the formal relationship between governance and management, all kinds of informal (read working) relationships develop between elected members (council and community boards) and staff.

    That is how some – if not all of us – get things done.

    Those who fail to establish those relationships or who do not understand, or even bother to do so, will never be effective.

    Getting things done is really what local government is all about, something that distinguishes it from central government.

    • Elizabeth

      Richard, that was pure poetry!
      I’m startled by the clarity that leads to massive intergenerational debt and the forceful right of staff it appears to kidnap massive amounts of money for something some if not all councillors have never had spending control of.

      $800,000 Richard – with, as Anonymous calculates, a 1.8% return

      It’s beyond brilliant.
      How can we thank elected representatives enough, and CARS, and DVML who have an unsubtle hand in promoting UNDERWRITING of stadium events to promoters, who else. THE COMPLETE AND VAST SELLOUT OF RATEPAYER AND RESIDENT FUNDS.

      This is a small indication of what follows from the elected representatives, NOT.
      Because they’re not coming back as ONE.

      October calls.

      • Elizabeth

        861 views in the 24 hours to midnight
        keep watching this week, we’re so not done yet

      • Elizabeth

        More for gullible Dunedinites to ignore, from our lovely council… a conference for the stadium, and NOT a return on the stadium investment – like hell, this is subsidised (underwriting, call it what you will) by the frigging ratepayers.

        SHAME ON DUNEDIN CITY COUNCIL and COMMUNITY AND RECREATION SERVICES. Or prove me wrong with presentation of your zero budget…

        ODT notes (and see further up this thread):
        “The council would be expected to cover the estimated $800,000 cost of hosting the event, but would aim to make a small projected profit of $15,000 thanks to sponsorship agreements and subscription payments from participants, Mr Matchett said in August.”

        ### ODT Online Tue, 19 Oct 2010
        New stadium scores its first win
        By David Loughrey
        Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium has a date for its first major international conference – the 2013 Global Botanic Gardens Congress.
        Read more


        We need subsidised conferences at the stadium like a hole in the head.


        [I refrained from re-tweeting this with a “ratepayers to pay (again)” message added – the time will come]


        @ForBarrStadium Good day in the office -secured first International Conference !!

  19. Richard

    “Massive intergenerational debt” – mmhh.

    High by Dunedin standards? In dollar terms yes.

    In terms of ratio and the proportion of rates requirted to repay? NO. It is at almost the same level as it was in the last year (1989) of the DCC prior to amalgamation.

    ‘Massive’ is a matter of opinion. Influenced to some extent, of course, by what capital projects are being funded.

    Dare I venture to suggest that if (say), the FB Stadium was not “on the books”, we would still have “massive intergenerational debt”?

    Judging by the comments made over the last two or three years on what the millions for the stadium could have been spent on (and most were not capital projects and so would have been a direct and immediate charge on rates), that would indeed be the case.

    Not forgetting, of course, those other ‘opportunities’ some around the council table talk of. All those ‘pet projects’.

    As for cutting operational expenditure. Well that’s another topic for another thread!

    C’est la Vie!

  20. kate

    Cutting operational costs are possible if there is a will. It happened in Central Otago when the CEO went looking for savings by going through processes. Chris Staynes has done some good work looking at this and has tried to get the process looked at in Dunedin. He has been unsuccessful to date. Savings in CODC were substantial and focussed on value adding processes rather than wastage.

  21. Anonymous

    $800K cost to host.
    500 people.
    That’s $1600 per person to host.
    Registration fees for this year’s Congress were 420-520 euros or NZ$775 to NZ$959.
    So looking for $300K+ (37.5%) from partners and/or supporting sponsorship.
    5-day conference, 500 people. MED figures say average spend per international delegate is $4079. So total economic impact for hosting this is just over $200K.

    • Elizabeth

      I seriously question the average daily spend per delegate in a small place like this without sophisticated accommodation, eateries or attractions. How many taxis or rental cars can you hire, or how many pairs of merino longjohns can you buy for cold days in the gardens back home ?

  22. Phil

    I didn’t quite follow all the numbers above, but I’ll accept the figure of $4079 being spent by an international delegate during their time in the country. They’ll probably stop off in Rotorua, go bungy jumping in Queenstown, spend a couple of hundred on Duty Free, and so forth. So that sounds about right. The unknown factor is how many of those projected 500 delegates will be $4079 international delegates. European conference “international delegate” numbers shouldn’t really be used when talking about NZ, because of the closeness of their borders. You can travel between Munich and London cheaper (and quicker) than you can travel between Auckland and Dunedin. I’ve been to a few international conferences in NZ/Aus and have observed that around half of those attending are from the host country, and almost half of those are from the host region.

    Didn’t the Town Hall and Regent Theatre recently (2007) hold a conference for 1500 people ? Didn’t pay anything for the hosting rights, didn’t pay for the cost of a new building, didn’t receive any complaints from the delegates.

    We had a similar discussion some time back. All sorts of concerts, conferences, sporting events, etc, will come to the stadium. No question at all. All we have to do is to pay them enough money first.

    • Elizabeth

      No wonder conferencing is such a racket, especially when this one (in 2013) takes business away from other established conference facilities including the community-owned Dunedin Centre.

      I just love the whole concept – it really makes infinitely bad sense/cents. From the people who brought you the stadium. Now they have three events: RWC 2011, a garden conference (sorry, congress) and a wedding! Hurray.

  23. Phil

    Thanks for the link, Anonymous. We’ve now established that domestic delegates will spend $1400, and locals will spend $700 during their time. And that the ratio between domestic and intenational delegates (based on the spending figues in the MED link) hold with the way I have seen numbers at conferences here.

    So, of the 500 people coming, we can expect the international delegates to spend a total of $1 million dollars during the time that they are in New Zealand. Hopefully a reasonable proportion of that money will be spent in Dunedin, fingers crossed. That would be great. People travelling from outside of Dunedin will spend $175,000. You would hope that most of that will be spent in Dunedin but I guess that also includes for home town transportation, transit meals, etc. And locals will spend just under $90,000. Presumably on dinners and drinks.

  24. Peter

    Wedding? Are the Moonies coming to town?

    • Elizabeth

      Forgive me – I sought in my 2010/11 Annual Plan submission that more should be spent in the botanic garden, on the physical asset and staff, and developing new activity within it designed to raise annual returns… since it’s one of Dunedin residents’ most appreciated assets. Award winning status or not, the botanic garden has for years been drained of serious capital investment (not including the stupid Lovelock Avenue Realignment project, which hopefully is DYING a quick death).

      I certainly wasn’t thinking of a conference requiring DCC to ‘cover’ the $800,000 likely cost – not unless Alan Matchett or Mick Reece are hands out to China or Otaru for a big donation as thanks for hosting the ‘here today gone tomorrow’ confab (sorry, ethereal congress) in 2013.


      Phil, it was Plunket who hosted the 1500-person conference in 2007.

      Peter, no such luck for an extravaganza like that – last year, a couple indicated their wish to celebrate their wedding at the stadium. I don’t know if they’re still together !? Let’s hope their families can afford to install the commercial kitchen.

  25. Kiwifly

    good to see that negativity still abounds on this site

  26. Phil

    preferable to gullibility.

  27. Peter

    I suppose the estimated $2.6m kitchen fit out will need to be there for the Botanical Conference and the $15,000 profit from the conference will make a huge dent in going towards this. Failing having a kitchen in a ‘bare essentials’ stadium, the conference goers could always go foraging- but not in the Botanic Gardens, please.

  28. Anonymous

    They read websites.

    My research took me 7 minutes all up, and I got the same numbers.

    Deduct the $900K fiction, deduct the double-accounted $454K. Take 10% of the final figure – that is the economic impact to NZ – about $150K.

    Good to see though that the $70K is the only council contribution and it comes from “existing budgets”.

  29. Richard

    Major sporting events, conferences etc do not “just happen” and most of our major cities and towns have ‘Events Budgets’, eg Wellington.

    Their budget and spending runs into seven figures but they do not disclose the specifics, eg on the Rugby Sevens, Wearable Arts etc.

    The grants are therefore not necessarily ‘venue specific’ although, of course, you have to have somewhere to hold them.

  30. Phil

    I agree with you, Richard. It is accepted practice that hosting venues have to buy in their events. Rather than the events paying to be hosted. I don’t think anyone is disputing that to be an accurate and realistic picture.

    I think that people are more easily annoyed now because the tolerance for non-disclosure by local authorities has worn so thin. Unfortunate events in recent years have resulted in the public accepting a very small margin of error when it comes to the policy of full disclosure. Yet reports continue to be presented in such a way that they portray the average person as being somewhat stupid and not capable of figuring out that someone, somewhere, must have paid to buy the event. This implies either ignorance or arrogance on the part of the authors. I haven’t figured out quite which it is yet.

    If the organisers had simply fronted up and said we paid xxx of your money to purchase the event (or even that we have had to pay SOME money to buy the event), because we believe it will generate xxx for your community, than people might feel a bit more as though they are being treated with some respect.

    As we can see already, the holes in the press release have been exposed with absolutely stupid figures getting thrown around as fact, which were later shot down by their very source. That was plain dumb. Now we’re left (again) with the image that the organisers were trying to deceive us, instead of us thinking that they might have been trying to do something good.

    This was a very badly prepared report, either by DCC or by ODT. Not a lot of thought, sadly.

    • Elizabeth

      Thanks Phil, you have it in one. Council has to wise up or continue to be treated as something that crawls under the stone called Deception.

      As I pointed out on Twitter this morning, my photographic exploits around Dunedin lately threw up a motto on one of the old King Edward Technical College buildings: “Learn & Labour”. Something we expect of ourselves as much as councillors and council staff, post-election. All to do with responsibility, and enhancing communication and trust.

      Think about it today, Labour Day.

  31. James

    It also rather depends on what type of conference it is. This seems more like an academic conference, where it isn’t necessarily expected that there is an event buy in, and the venue is picked on the basis of interesting locality, relevance, or that a prominent member or group of regular attendees is based there. With this type of conference there is not an expectation that the hosts will set the registration fee as much more than break even. This, of course, may not be that type of conference.

    One thing I would suggest though, in my experience of international conferences that come to Australasia: there will not be an overwelming number of local delegates (not many botanic gardens, or for academic conferences, not many universities), but that the conference size will be down on usual, as fewer northern hemisphere attendees will come.

  32. Anonymous

    Bugger. DVML missed out on another event! Maybe they just needed that “incentive” fund paid out, hotel built, “international” airport runway extended and or another dozen or so public-funded conference centres…

    ### Stuff Online Last updated 13:40 18/02/2013
    Thousands marry in mass wedding
    Thousands of Unification Church members got married in a mass wedding in South Korea on Sunday (Monday, NZT) – the first since the death of their “messiah” and controversial church founder Sun Myung Moon. Some 3500 identically-dressed couples – many of mixed nationality who had met just days before – took part in the ceremony at the church’s global headquarters in Gapyeong, east of the capital Seoul. Mass weddings, some held in giant sports stadia with tens of thousands of couples, have long been a signature feature of the church and one that “Moonie” critics have pointed to as evidence of cult underpinnings.
    Read more

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