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Bigger venue, bigger cost

Bigger venue, bigger cost
Glow in the Park will move to the Ashburton Domain for 2024 with the bigger venue seen as a place to grow the event and improve access, but also come at a greater cost to run. PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN.

Glow in the Park will move to a bigger venue from next year, raising concerns it will come with a heftier price tag.

The decision was made on Tuesday to shift the free admission light festival from the Tinwald Domain to the Ashburton Domain from 2024.

But that move could come with a $100,000 price tag.

The move was aimed at allowing the event to expand, and alleviating the congestion issues created by its popularity.

More than 17,000 attended across two nights this year, with the third night rained off. That was a 70 per cent increase in attendance, which caused gridlock traffic in town.

The cost was also a key talking point around shifting the Ashburton District Council-run event.

In her report to council, events advisor Sarah Davidson said the event required funding well over the council’s budget of $15,000 to be successful.

The event cost a minimum of $60,000 and could “go as high as $100,000 depending on the design and offering of the event”.

The original event was funded by EA Networks to celebrate its centenary, but the council was left to foot the bill this year. It was helped by local business sponsorship funding of $47,000.

As admission is free, Mayor Neil Brown and councillor Tony Todd supported the possibility of creating a temporary car parking area in the domain.

The carpark could charge a fee to create revenue while also encouraging more people to walk, Brown said.

Councillor Russell Ellis suggested going a step further by introducing an admission fee for the council’s “flagship event”.

“[If] this event is going to cost over $100,000 to run, maybe there needs to be an admission fee. It doesn’t have to be high.

“How you then police that in the domain becomes very difficult as well.”

Councillor Richard Wilson wanted it made clear it was not a free event.

“We call it a free event but it’s paid for by the ratepayers.

“To put it in context, the grading of the district's shingle roads costs $377,000 a year and we could end up spending $100,000 on this.”

Wilson and councillors Phill Hooper and Rob Mackle opposed the event's move, believing it should remain in Tinwald.

The first Glow event planned for 2021 was to be held at the Ashburton Domain but was cancelled due to covid restrictions.

The event was held in 2022 at the Tinwald Domain as it offered easier control of entry points to ensure compliance with covid rules, which were eased before the event.

Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan said it was time to move to a bigger venue due to the growing attendance.

Councillor Carolyn Cameron said the move to central Ashburton would provide more walking opportunities for Glow-goers.

“The traffic presumably would be more manageable in town even though the car parking may be more difficult to get.

“I’m sure people will be tolerant of streets clogged up for a few hours a day.”

Councillor Lynette Lovett suggested putting on buses to ease the congestion.

Chief executive Hamish Riach said a bus service could be an option, but it could “need an entire fleet” to take the pressure off.

“We have been very mindful of the costs for this event.

“Putting on buses requires cost and you have got 17,000 [people]. Even a big bus carrying 40 people has to make an awful lot of trips to make a difference.”

Ashburton Domain celebrates 160 years next year and the event would be held at King's Birthday weekend. This factor was also considered in the move.

By Jonathan Leask