A $1.6m ratepayer-funded boost for Rotorua mountain biking festival Crankworx has been signed off.

The funding was approved by a full meeting of the Rotorua Lakes Council on Thursday.

Councillors Peter Bentley and Reynold Macpherson recorded their votes against bumping up funding for Crankworx.

Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson – who was until May a director of Mountain Bike Events, which runs Crankworx – did not participate in discussion or voting on the matter, citing a conflict of interest.

The decision means Crankworx will receive an additional $100,000 for 2020/21 and a commitment of $250,000 each year for the six years following.

The first year’s funding would come out of a $29 million fund to stimulate and support the Covid-19 economic recovery, set up as part of the council’s 2020/21 annual plan.

The council’s additional funding was dependent on the event receiving continued funding through the Government’s Major Events Fund.

The council invested a maximum of $150,000 per year on the event in previous years.

Speaking to the Rotorua Daily Post, Crankworx event director Ariki Tibble said he was relieved but also felt “an immense responsibility to ensure the event continues to deliver for Rotorua”.

He was aware there had been some criticism, some of it from councillors, the event should not receive ratepayer or taxpayer funding.

Crankworx event director Ariki Tibble. Photo / File
Crankworx event director Ariki Tibble. Photo / File

However, he pointed to analysis by APR Consultants which found that the event brought $4.31m into the Rotorua economy each year.

Tibble said before Crankworx, mountain biking had been Rotorua’s “best kept secret” and the event had helped escalate the city’s profile as a mountain biking destination.

He said Crankworx was taking lessons from other events on Covid-19 resilience and he was committed to increasing the certainty of being able to deliver the event regardless of any impacts from the pandemic.

The decision set the backdrop for an atypically demure session of the council, which also approved the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Department of Internal Affairs regarding the Government’s Three Waters Reform programme proposal.

At the meeting council chief executive Geoff Williams said the MOU had already been signed.

“We are in negotiation with the Department of Internal Affairs.”

After the meeting, Williams told the Daily Post the MOU was a non-binding agreement and it was important to give the Government notice of the council’s intent “by way of signing an MOU”.

He said elected members had previously shown strong support for the council’s involvement in Three Waters Reform and if that had changed, the council would “simply withdraw”.

Council chief executive Geoff Williams. Photo / Andrew Warner
Council chief executive Geoff Williams. Photo / Andrew Warner

The council unanimously approved amending the council’s community funding investment policy to implement the $1m Community Resilience Fund approved by the 2020/21 annual plan, as well as appointing a representative from each of the council, Te Tatau o Te Arawa, the Lakes and Rural community boards to a panel to approve grants.

Councillor Mercia Yates was appointed to the decision-making panel.

Unanimous, too, was the decision to approve the completion of the exchange of road reserve land for privately-owned land on Taui St, Ngongotahā.

A batch of amendments to the 2018-2028 long-term plan was also agreed to, with Macpherson voting against.

According to the agenda, the amendments were required following the council’s July 29 agreement to enter into a 10-year $156m contract with the Trility consortium to manage wastewater services.

Council corporate planning and governance manager Oonagh Hopkins told the council that agreeing to council officers’ recommendation to amend the long-term plan would mean Audit NZ – having already provided a positive verbal audit of the changes – would provide the council with its written audit opinion.

That would allow the council to publish the changes to the long-term plan, she said.

After Macpherson voted against, councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said it was an “auditor’s opinion”.

Rotorua Lakes councillor Reynold Macpherson. Photo / Andrew Warner
Rotorua Lakes councillor Reynold Macpherson. Photo / Andrew Warner

“We’ve got a councillor voting against the [auditor’s opinion]. That can’t happen, surely? How do you work that out?”

Chadwick replied “with some difficulty”.

Councillor Tania Tapsell did not attend the meeting but her apologies were accepted by the council.