Lightshow at the 2015 Lismore Lantern Parade.
Lightshow at the 2015 Lismore Lantern Parade. Nolan Verheij-Full

‘Kick in the guts’: business pulls cash from lantern parade

FUNDING of Lismore's iconic event, the Lismore Lantern Parade, has been downgraded by the city's business community which believes the volunteer-based event is old enough to stand on its own two feet.

At Tuesday night's Lismore City Council meeting, Vanessa Ekins moved an amendment in a bid to override the 2016-2018 Lismore Business Panel's plan to contribute only $5000 for the trademark event this year, $2500 next year and zero the next.

The money is provided by the Special Business Rate Variation Levy which has more than $360,000.

Withdrawing assistance

While council does provide $15,000 and another $15,000 of in-kind services to the lantern parade, the LBP plan indicated it would be withdrawing financial assistance, in favour of funding new, fledgling events.

Lismore Lantern Parade director Jyllie Jackson called it a "kick in the guts" for the burnt-out festival volunteers who work for free to bring light and love to the city, while the local economy benefited from their free labour to the tune of $3.8 million annually.

Meanwhile, the panel backed the fledgling Eat the Street event to the tune of $30,000.

Don't force business

Isaac Smith, a member of the the business panel, said council was not in a position to force a decision.

"Let the business panel do as they see fit,' he said.

Cr Neil Marks agreed, saying of the 22-year-old event: "We need to see our children grow."

Cr Ekins said it was a "sad day" for the unique event, which attracted media from around the world.

She described the food festival as the panel's "pet project" and said the panel's $2500 financial contribution to the parade next year was the same as the panel's internal catering budget.

Backing new events

Michael Haddin, chairman of the business panel, justified the decision.

"We need to back new events," he said.

The panel wants to contribute to new events for the first three to four years so the events can stand on their own feet and become viable, Mr Haddin said.

He said the co-promotion of Lismore's stocktake sale with the lantern parade in previous years had not worked as well as hoped.

"There is no need to promote the two things together. By being treated separate they won't be comprised," he said.

This year's festival on Saturday will instead tie in with an Italian Friendship Festival on Sunday.

New Lismore events could include a family-orientated and alcohol-free New Year's Eve concert, a major music festival, activities aimed at young people, film and comedy festivals and an Australia Day celebration.

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