What's New

Winter festival in doubt after council backing lost

Flagstaff Team

Warm glow… Winter Lights drew 45,000 people in 2023

Takapuna’s Winter Lights festival has lost its Auckland Council support, leaving its future looking dim.
A decision will be made next month on whether the event can proceed, likely on a smaller scale, for a fifth year in July.
“We were very disappointed,” said Takapuna Beach Business Association (TBBA) chief executive Terence Harpur, after council’s promotional arm Tataki Auckland Unlimited (TAU) suddenly pulled the plug.
“They don’t support any other event in the northern area,” he said.
TAU provided $40,000 for last year’s festival. Harpur hopes enough alternative sponsorship will be secured to carry on with an event that had grown from drawing 12,000 people in 2021 to 45,000 last year – generating an estimated $1 million of spending in the town centre.
The TBBA was in discussions with TAU late last year about securing a three-year support package, but things went quiet, he said. Last month, “they turned around and said no funding”.
TAU is now focusing its promotional efforts and reduced budget on staging only the bigger Lantern, Diwali and Pasifika festivals, as well as the new Moana festival it set up this year. All are isthmus- or South Auckland-based.
Harpur, who is also Devonport-Takapuna Local Board deputy chair, said the North Shore was missing out. “We’d like to see events activating and funding for North Shore, not just Auckland.”
Winter Lights was an example of how a good free event brought joy to the community. Schools were involved as well as professional light artists, and it had potential to grow further, with a target of 50,000 to 55,000 visitors this year.
The TBBA event, organised in conjunction with light-show promoter and Takapuna resident Dan Move, started small and was then taken under the umbrella of the city’s Elemental festival.
Harpur said it cost a six-figure sum to put on, much of it contributed by the TBBA.Foundation North and Pub Charity had also been supporters, along with other sponsors.
Fixed costs for the likes of traffic management, security and fencing meant any shortfalls that could be locked in through other sponsorship would impact on the extent of lighting displays and entertainment that could be staged..
“After those are assessed we’ll have a better idea if we can go ahead,” he said. “We really want to put the event on. I’m confident it will, it’s just the scale of it at stake.”
Devonport-Takapuna Local Board chair Toni van Tonder raised the issue of funding at a board discussion on budgets last week, sounding out members on their interest in supporting the event. “It activates the town centre in the cold winter days,” she said.
Board member Gavin Busch said it was up to the TBBA. That said, he was disappointed that there was such a city focus in Auckland. The Vivid light festival in Sydney showed how good events could grow.
Member Mel Powell said other events such as Sculpture OnShore also draw crowds of 20,000 or so people. “Why would we choose one over the other?”
Van Tonder said Winter Lights had clear economic benefits, whereas with Sculpture OnShore at Fort Takapuna in Narrow Neck more people drove in and out, without necessarily bringing dollars into town centres.
She was not wanting the board to underwrite Winter Lights, but said alongside North Shore ward councillor Richard Hills she was advocating to TAU to back destinations such as Takapuna. “I just worry we could lose it. It’s a signature event for the North Shore area.”
AU head of major events Chris Simpson said the organisation had decided to ‘push pause’ on Elemental after a review of the festival’s impact over the past five years.

Please consider supporting The Rangitoto Observer by clicking here: