Stadium defections, bookings prompt review

The board overseeing Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium has launched a management review amid high-profile defections and concerns the entertainment cupboard for this summer is ''a little bit bare''.

Dunedin Venues Management Ltd board chairman Sir John Hansen, speaking to the Otago Daily Times, had a blunt message for music fans hoping for a stadium-filling concert this summer.

Anyone waiting for a sell-out show to rival Sir Elton John's should forget about it.

''This summer? The answer would be no,'' he said.

The Rolling Stones, who announced plans for a New Zealand show early next year, were ''highly unlikely'' to come to Dunedin, and without their pulling power, a sell-out show at the stadium was unlikely, Sir John believed.

''Unless you are lucky enough to attract a Springsteen or the Rolling Stones ... you are going to really struggle to fill that stadium,'' he said.

But DVML staff were in talks aimed at securing smaller shows over the next few months ''in the vicinity of the Paul Simon concert'', which drew 12,500 fans to the venue.

''There are certainly things in the pipeline that, if they came off, one would expect to attract a substantial crowd to a Dunedin concert,'' he said.

Sir John's comments came after it was confirmed last week DVML chief executive Darren Burden would leave the organisation on December 24, after just over a year in the role.

It was also confirmed this week the company's commercial manager, Guy Hedderwick, had moved to Adelaide, and was now working for DVML as a part-time contractor, following an earlier management restructure.

Mr Hedderwick's team was responsible for securing concerts and other events, but - contacted in Australia - he would only say his departure was ''emphatically ... not performance-related at all''.

Mr Burden, in a statement responding to questions, would only say the change was ''mutually agreed'' as part of a move to a ''wider, flatter leadership team''.

He was not available for further comment, while Sir John, asked if the restructure was the result of poor performance, told the ODT the change was ''very much a management decision''.

The concert market was ''notoriously difficult'', which meant securing events was ''not an easy task'', and the board wanted continual improvement from DVML staff, Sir John said.

''That's part of the board's role. The solution that [Mr Burden] then came up with was this restructure,'' he said.

The board had ''no specific performance issues'' with Mr Hedderwick or any of his team, Sir John said. Whether Mr Burden did ''was a matter for Darren''.

''I can't answer for management.''

As a result of Mr Burden's departure, the board had initiated a review of the company's management structure, Sir John confirmed.

That could lead to changes, including the recruitment of a new staff member to help secure more events, he said.

''It's apparent to everyone, I think, that event acquisition is the hardest part of the game.''

The company was also considering limiting its search for a replacement for Mr Burden to Australasia, in order to minimise recruitment costs, he confirmed. DVML spent $51,000 last year on the recruitment process that led to the appointment of Mr Burden, who already worked for DVML. It was again using Dunedin-based company Select Recruitment in the hunt for his replacement.

The company wanted to find ''the best person'', but ''we want to keep the fees at a minimum, of course''.

''One of the pieces of advice we'll ask for is whether or not we should just be advertising within Australasia, or whether we should be going world-wide. We'll wait and receive that advice and look at it.''

Sir John also defended the decision to grant Mr Burden an early release from his contract. The decision meant DVML would likely be run ''by mini-committee'' - comprising board members and other senior managers - until Mr Burden's replacement began work, which might not be until late February, Sir John said.

He said there had been ''a significant improvement'' in the venue's performance. It had hosted 60 bowl events and more than 272,000 people.

- chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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