ODT 150th birthday bash

Updated 15 Nov 2011 at 1.14 pm
Received from Ahmad:

On Saturday night I went to the Otago Daily Times “Big Night In” – a “free community concert” hosted by the Otago Daily Times as part of their 150th anniversary celebrations. Like many who attended I enjoyed much of the night. Of course when you haven’t paid anything you can’t really complain, but that’s exactly where this story begins.

Promoted for months by the Otago Daily Times as their big birthday bash, entry to this “free community concert” was by way of gold coin donation to charity. All good. That is until you look at which charities the money went to.

On Friday 26 August the ODT said that “the concert is free, but ticketed, with gold-coin donations being collected for the KidsCan charitable trust”. On Saturday 1 October the ODT said “entry is by free ticket only. Gold-coin donations will be accepted at the gate for the KidsCan charitable trust and Lions club”. Subsequently, the information being provided stated that “the gold coin donation will go to three areas: 50% KidsCan, 10% Dunedin North Lions Club, 40% Big Night In Charities Ltd”. And finally the admission from the ODT that has me most concerned on Saturday 5 November and repeated on Saturday 12 November that “entry is free, with gold coin donations collected at the gate. The KidsCan child cancer fund will get 50% of money collected, Dunedin Lions service clubs will get 10%, and 40% will go to Big Night In Charities Limited, a not-for-profit company, to help offset the cost of the concert.”

Why on earth should those attending a “free community concert” hosted by the ODT as part of their birthday celebrations be helping to “offset the cost of the concert”. With sponsors including Deloitte (associate sponsor) and the Dunedin City Council (partner and contributor of $70,000 of ratepayers’ money towards this event), surely one should be able to assume that the full costs would have been met by those promoting this “free community concert”?

And who exactly are “The Big Night In Charities Limited” anyway? They are a registered company with the two Directors listed as Doug Kamo (the Artistic Director/Producer of ODT’s Big Night In), and Stuart Walker (Musical Director of Big Night In). James Smith (ODT Circulation Manager) says it is a “not-for-profit company”, and that “money allocated to BNICL is used to help offset costs of the free community concert” (direct quote).

Now I fully appreciate that not every dollar I donate to any chosen charity will actually reach those in need due to running costs of the organisation. However in this case I do not believe the ODT have been completely up front about the funding for this event.

Despite what the ODT had been publicising for months, the concert was not actually free. It was low cost, certainly, but not free, given that part of my entry donation was to offset the concert costs. I (like everyone else) believed that I was attending a concert paid for by the Otago Daily Times and other sponsors, and making a genuine donation to charity as part of the condition of entry. Is giving money to a not-for-profit company to stage the concert a true “donation to charity”? I believe most would consider it not to be.

I believe that the Otago Daily Times owes its readership an explanation about the true nature of funding for this event. I feel deceived by the marketing of this concert and I know of others who feel similarly. I have spoken to representatives from The Southern Trust and Otago Community Trust to pass on my concerns and they seemed genuinely surprised by these revelations. Both appeared to believe they were contributing to a local organisation – which technically they were because Big Night In Charities Ltd is registered to a Dunedin address.

The Otago Daily Times should also, in my opinion, reveal to the people of Otago where the money donated to KidsCan will be spent. On Saturday night the $12,000 cheque was presented to a KidsCan representive who the MC announced was from Auckland. Will the money be spent in our region? And if not – why not? Why would the newspaper serving the Otago region for 150 years use grants from local charities (The Southern Trust, Otago Community Trust, and Bendigo Valley Foundation) to hold a big birthday party only to raise funds for a charity to spend outside of the region? Surely it would be fitting for such funds to be spent in the region that the ODT serves?

I don’t mean to be a 150th anniversary party pooper but these questions do need to be addressed. I have no competing interests to declare and am simply a proud Otago resident and long time reader of the ODT.

Related Posts:
12.11.11 The little horrors 2
30.7.11 LGOIMA request – stadium event

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr


Filed under Concerts, DCC, Economics, Events, People, Project management, Stadiums

34 responses to “ODT 150th birthday bash

  1. rateswaste

    I was also at Saturday night’s concert and would like to make the following comments.
    1. I enjoyed the opportunity to see the stadium “in the flesh” and was suitably impressed.
    2. The stadium is an excellent structure and a brilliant addition to the city but the way it is funded and built without public endorsement remains inexcusable.
    3. While the concert was almost free attendees still have the right to point out that the sound was really bad.
    David Davies’ comments in today’s ODT “some hard lessons have been learned and one is that some people will always complain about the sound” is yet another display of arrogance from this management.
    4. The sight of Malcolm Farry on stage was in bad taste given the huge degree of ill feeling toward his involvement in the construction of the stadium.

  2. Curious

    I think you have missed quite an important detail:

    “Big Night In Limited” is registered with the Charities Commission and is the Auckland based Charitable Vehicle used for the TV3 Telethon in 2009

    “The Big Night in Charities Limited” – The ODT one does not appear to be registered with the Charities commission, indeed as previously mentioned the only apparent reason for this to have a company structure at all as far as I can see would be to use it to offset tax.

    {NOTE: Curious has not checked the facts. The Big Night In Charities Limited is a registered company – No. 3430151
    http://www.business.govt.nz/companies/app/ui/pages/companies/3430151?backurl=%2Fcompanies%2Fapp%2Fui%2Fpages%2Fcompanies%2Fsearch%3Fmode%3Dstandard%26type%3Dentities%26q%3DBig%2520Night%2520In%2520Charities%2520Limited -Eds}

  3. Peter

    The IRD has an Anonymous Information Line 0800 377 772 or a Complaints Management Service 0800 274 138 for anyone who has queries or concerns.

  4. Ahmad

    @Curious and Site Editors. Thanks for that information. So in fact BNICL is NOT a registered charity then??

    {As the NZ Companies Office indicates at its website, the entity status for The Big Night In Charities Limited is: NZ Limited Company. -Eds}

  5. Ahmad

    @Peter thanks for that info. However IMHO I think that while the ODT *may* have acted unethically here (I reserve judgement until they have had a chance to respond), I don’t believe they have acted *illegally*.

    They never said the entry donation would be for “charity” as such. But to say 40% of donations would go to a group called “Big Night In Charities Ltd” would imply to most that BNICL was a registered charity.

    • Elizabeth

      ### ODT Online Tue, 15 Nov 2011
      $30,000 raised
      The “Big Night In” community concert raised more than $30,000 for charity. Gold coin donations collected at the Forsyth Barr Stadium gates on Saturday were distributed between children’s cancer foundation KidsCan (50%), Dunedin North Lions clubs (10%) and Big Night In Charities Ltd (40%, to offset concert costs). A cheque for $12,000 was presented to KidsCan at the end of the concert on Saturday.
      Read more

    • Elizabeth

      Ahmad, the New Zealand Companies Office and the Charities Commission (at their web pages) clearly delineate between registered charity status and the status of a limited liability company.

  6. Ahmad

    Thanks everyone – it seems I was further duped by the (probably intentional) similarities in name. There are 2 distinct companies and only one is actually a registered charity: http://www.coys.co.nz/search/?q=big+night+in

    I feel like I’m 1 in 110,000. Does no-one else see the OBVIOUS factual errors in the story the ODT continues to sell us?

    $30,000 raised at the door.

    $12,000 to KidsCan.

    YOU do the math. What’s going on??

  7. Ahmad

    Ok my sincere apologies – I jumped the gun on this one. $6000 raised in the second act? Sounds unlikely unless perhaps a philanthropist at the ODT stumped up with an extremely generous donation to fill the coffers?

  8. Ahmad

    Hi Elizabeth, due to my confusion with the ambigious organisation naming would you be able to edit the offending paragraph (when you have time) for the sake of accuracy? Thanks.

    Perhaps it could read:

    “And who exactly are “The Big Night In Charities Limited” anyway? They are a registered company with the two Directors listed as Doug Kamo (the Artistic Director/Producer of ODT’s Big Night In), and Stuart Walker (Musical Director of Big Night In). James Smith (ODT Circulation Manager) says it is a “not-for-profit company”, and that “money allocated to BNICL is used to help offset costs of the free community concert” (direct quote).

    {We’ve caught that, checked with Elizabeth, and will make the changes. -Eds}

  9. Curious

    @ Ed, yes it is a registered company both are registered companies with the companies office, to be a registered Charity one has to further register with the Charities Commission a separate process whereby a Charities number is also issued, As far as I can see the ODT one has been registered as a company but HAS NOT been registered as a charity

  10. Rat

    Their constitution forbids any pecuniary gain and profits must be distributed. They are the concert promoter, the Constitution is viewed here. To be honest, nothing too sinister prima facie.

    It should however be registered under the Charities Act in order to be tax -exempt. Its constitution certainly allows it to be.


  11. Peter

    Ahmad. I too would be surprised with a $6,000 philanthropic donation from the ODT to reach the $30k gold coin donation total. (Not really their style.) OK, if that’s so, that’s effectively $6,000 taken from the $70k DCC ratepayers’ handout. Cheap philanthropy, eh.
    Another thing. Why did KidsCan fly someone down to collect the doh? Was this cost paid out from the $12,000? This shows extreme largesse by the KidsCan admin people – on themselves – which should go directly to the kids, surely. It all gets murkier and murkier.

  12. Ahmad

    For the record:


    ODT proclaiming that they facilitated the raising of $30,000 “for charity”.

    Let it be made clear that The Big Night In Charities Ltd (paid in order to “offset concert costs”) is not a legally registered charity in New Zealand. While they may be eligible for this status, the fact is they don’t carry it.

    More to come.

  13. Phil

    Good old Max. I see that, yet again, Max is the resident expert on the structural and acoustic properties of the Dunedin stadium. Think of the money that we spent engaging consultants to design the stadium. What an absolute waste. We could have saved bucketloads by simply employing Capital C Concerts right from the start. They must have a pretty tough recruitment policy when an engineering degree is required in order to be employed as a ticket tout.

    Naturally if you pay enough money, you can fix anything. So the official line (from our expert) is that every time we want to have anything other than a rugby match in the stadium, we’re going to have to hire in a multi million dollar sound system. Every time.

  14. Peter

    I see another item to be added to the stadium bill with the talk about a ‘community’ concert being held once a year. They can’t have the same sound system, can they? Let’s have one of Elton’s million dollar jobs.

  15. Ahmad

    If there has been any good out of this ODT sham regarding where the $30,000 of charitable donations are going, it’s that the organisers are now claiming that the $12,000 given to KidsCan “will actually go back into the area”. There was definitely no undertaking from any party involved in this concert for this to happen when I questioned them on this and in fact mostly I got vague answers saying that at least some would be spent in Otago with no specific figure forthcoming.


    {This link was previously posted at https://dunedinstadium.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/the-little-horrors-2/#comment-19947 -Eds}

  16. Peter

    I’d take this assurance, that the $12,000 for Kidscan is coming back to Otago, with a grain of salt. Not getting down to the specifics of where/how in Otago tells us a lot.
    A shabby affair from the start. While the public at large will remain ignorant about the ‘free’ concert, those now in the know, that find this information revealing/useful, will certainly be drawing their own conclusions, I’d imagine.

  17. Just to clarify for those people who are misinformed the money that has been donated to KidsCan WILL go toward providing the basics for our new partner school in Dunedin Carlton Hill School, Dunedin. They will receive food and raincoats this year plus beanies and sunhats for their children in need.

    Ahmed you and I had a long conversation about this on the phone and I told you this information so I am really disappointed that you have said I did not really give an answer. We pride our selves on being a accountable charity and if we say we are going to do something then we do it. So please so publicly bagging KidsCan as it is the children who we support that will suffer from ill informed comments. You have an ax to grind with the OTD but don’t bring us into it please.

    Also in regards to our representative coming from Auckland we have the fare sponsored and his job was to organize and coordinate all the volunteers on the night so he had to be there. I am sure if we had not sent anybody to represent us we would have been given a hard time for that as well for appearing not to be grateful.

    If people want to know how we operate and what we do go to our website we have a full policy document on there and our audited annual accounts. It is important to have your facts right when talking about another organisation.

    Julie Helson
    CEO & Founder KidsCan

  18. Anonymous

    *Calton Hill
    *So please stop
    *an accountable

  19. Mike

    To be fair “Calton Hill school” as a legal entity doesn’t exist any more – the new combined Carisbrook School is now operating at that site, for the next two years – I wonder who the money really went to

  20. Hype O'Thermia

    One is not filled with confidence…….

  21. Ahmad

    Hi Julie,

    Good to hear from you regarding accountability of the charity funds which were collected at the Big Night In. I’m sorry you feel that I have publicly bagged KidsCan.

    In my humble opinion, which I am happy to have challenged, I have NEVER “publicly bagged KidsCan” as it relates to the ODT Big Night In. From the beginning this has been an issue about accountability and the ultimate responsibility for this lies with the ODT. I personally believe that this is made pretty clear in the blog post above.

    In fact as I recall it, you yourself expressed concern when I spoke to you and explained that the ODT had not made it entirely clear to the public that 40% of the collected money would in fact be put towards the costs of the concert. From my notes, you said to me that when you spoke to Doug Kamo (Director of Big Night In Charities Ltd.) about this, you felt that this should be made very clear to the public if indeed they would be putting 40% of those collections towards the cost of the “free” concert.

    With regards my “misinformation” about where the money raised for KidsCan would go – at the time of the original post, the ODT could not tell me exactly where the funds would be spent. I pressed further, indicating that this was not a particularly satisfactory response when it came to accountability for charitable funds, but no commitment was offered in terms of where funds would be spent (essentially I was told that the money would be given to KidsCan to spend where needed without any particular undertaking to spend it in any particular region).

    Subsequently an undertaking was made that money would be spent in Dunedin – and I even reference this in the comment which appears 2 places above your post.

    I’m sorry Julie that you feel I’ve bagged KidsCan because I would disagree with that. This issue has always been about accountability of funds which were raised at the Big Night In.

  22. Thanks for your response Ahmed. I understand your point about the OTD telling you the funds would go to us and not being specific. However I did clarify exactly where the money was going with you. The money is going to Carlton School or as has now been pointed the entity under which is now operates to support the children there who are less fortunate than others. In response to Mike, please re read my earlier post where I said the money WILL go to support the school. The money is being held in our tagged account which is where all funds specifically meant for a region, school or purpose are held and it will be spent this year on the items the children in that school need. At the end of the day the proof is in the pudding and the tangible results will be seen in the food, shoes, raincoats etc that the kids receive this year. End of story.

  23. Mike

    Julie: that’s what I figured, but we’ve known for months now that Calton school will be no more, it seemed strange you continuing to say the money was going to them.

    Really though money raised from the new stadium should go to paying it off before we start thinking about using it for charitable purposes

  24. Peter

    So what happens to ‘Calton Hill School’ kids once the money for ‘food,shoes and raincoats’,for this year, runs out? In that sense, it is not ‘end of story’. I realise charities fill immediate needs-and that’s good-but they can do little to solve the ongoing economic and social inequalities that make such gifts of charity necessary… as a stop gap. I sometimes wonder if charities, like KidsCan, even think about this.

  25. amanda kennedy

    Well I guess they could go to the Community Trust…only there is not much money in the piggy bank there either presumably due to it being already used to pay for the great fiscal blackhole down by the water.

  26. Peter

    A shame the Otago Community Trust under former chairman, John Farry – and former stadium land owner – pledged $7m for the stadium all those years ago. But only $300k for the latest Neurosurgery campaign, sponsored by the ODT. You’ve got to get your priorities right, eh.
    How much are the Smith Bros, themselves, contributing again to this new campaign? Or haven’t they mentioned the total yet? Let’s get the ball rolling with a good healthy dollop of dollars from someone rich.

  27. Hype O'Thermia

    There’s something about the way the same names appear again and again, isn’t there? John Farry for instance, the landowner who described the price paid for his land bought for the stadium as “a piss in the bucket”.

    And – from Google :
    St Kilda Finance calls in receivers | Otago Daily Times Online News …
    http://www.odt.co.nz › News › Dunedin
    14 Nov 2008 – John Farry St Kilda Finance has been placed in the hands of receivers by its directors, with almost $7 million owed to 358 mainly southern …

  28. anon

    Get thee to a news stand for a Christchurch Press.

  29. Hype O'Thermia

    Looked online. Don’t know what I’m looking for.

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