No public at show

It's a no-show for the public at one of Canterbury’s biggest events this year with the postponement of the New Zealand Agricultural Show.

In a statement yesterday, Canterbury A&P Association board chairman Stewart Mitchell said it was a "very disappointing" decision but, after several challenging years, it gave an opportunity to completely rethink the show’s strategic direction. Livestock judging and competitions would still be held.

More than 100,000 people usually attend the three-day event in November. Prior to the announcement, The Press had been reporting on the future of the show being unclear, amid the departure of a number of staff — including general manager Tracy Ahern this month — and financial uncertainty.

The most recent annual report, for the year ending March 31, 2023, showed income of $3.02 million was the highest in the show’s then 159-year history. A $81,075 deficit was down from a $686,148 deficit the previous year.

In that report, then-president Chris Harris said the well-documented struggles with the financial fallout from Covid-19 were "a distant memory". That was down to the "utterly extraordinary planning" by the show’s revitalised management, the prudent oversight of the CAPA board and the work of committees and volunteers.

This week, Mr Mitchell said the association’s ongoing business model was under review. After two Covid-19 years and last year’s financial loss, the association’s financial reserves were limited and it was unable to sustain the risk of another loss this year.

Rising wage and compliance costs were another contributing factor while the prevailing economic conditions were likely to affect the show’s main income streams of sponsorship, exhibitors and gate revenue, he said.

The association secured a $1m loan from the Christchurch City Council in November 2021. The board was also close to concluding a commercial transaction with the Christchurch City Council which would result in land the association held a 100-year lease on being transferred to the council for public use.

In the 2023 annual report, director audit and risk Steve Barry said the rezoning of the Wigram Rd land had the potential to deliver a significant opportunity to both parties and to be the source of the repayment of the loan.