The event attracted about 10,000 people, but it cost more than $300,000 to host the two-day festival and Ballina Shire Council has repeatedly had to find extra money over the years.
The event attracted about 10,000 people, but it cost more than $300,000 to host the two-day festival and Ballina Shire Council has repeatedly had to find extra money over the years. Doug Eaton

Rivafest to sink or swim

THE fate of Rivafest will be decided in April, with Ballina Shire Council planning to ask a private or community organisation to take control of the popular event.

The event attracted about 10,000 people last year.

But it cost more than $300,000 to host the two-day festival and the council has repeatedly been forced to find extra money from its budget.

At tomorrow’s council meeting councillors will consider whether they want to ask for expressions of interest to organise Rivafest.

EOIs would include a cash contribution of $45,000 from the council, as well as ‘limited in-kind contributions’.

A decision on the successful group would be made by April.

But if no one comes forward to take it on, the council will be forced to decide whether the event can be held this year.

It is unlikely that Rivafest will be scrapped altogether.

General manager Paul Hickey said the council had never expected to make a profit from the event.

“It was always going to run at a loss. The council’s not in it to make money,” he said.

“It’s more of a community development project.

“But I think that if the council agrees to put up funding, there could be an opportunity for an organisation.

“Rivafest has a lot of community support, but it is a huge project for the council.”

Rivafest has been co-ordinated by the council for the past five years.

Local volunteer group Ballina Alive teamed up with the council in 2004 to organise the first Rivafest, after the group struggled to keep its own Ballina Alive festival afloat because of rising insurance costs.

In February 2007 the council scaled down Rivafest from a full weekend to a one-day event.

Last year Youthfest was held on the Saturday afternoon.

A free bus service to the event from Wardell, Alstonville, Ballina and Lennox Head was provided, but no one used it.

About 500 people attended Youthfest, and the council said it would not be financially viable if it wasn’t for the $19,000 funding from the MiiMi Aboriginal Corporation.

The Vince Jones concert, held on the Saturday night, lost $1600.

About 35 community groups were involved in the main event on the Sunday.

It is estimated that more than 10,000 people attended Rivafest over the course of the day, peaking at 7000 at 7.30pm for the fireworks.

The total cost of the two-day program was $304,000, with $177,000 of provided as in-kind contributions.

The council provided $83,500 of the cash needed.

Other funding came from sponsorship ($12,000); ticket sales ($2900); supplier fees ($9600) and grants ($19,000).

However the council had not intended to spend so much on the event.

It allocated $47,000 in the budget, but spent an extra $36,500.

That was because sponsorship targets were not met, and there were increased expenses associated with infrastructure such as lighting, staging and marquees.

It’s not the first time the event has been in financial trouble. Rivafest has run at a loss for the past four years, with a budget overspend ranging from $15,000 in 2005 to $36,500 last year.

But the council admits that discontinuing the event would not be an ideal option, given the ‘significant community goodwill generated from the event’.

RIVAFEST: AN EXPENSIVE WEEKEND

More than 10,000 people attended last year’s main event.

It cost $304,000 to run, including $177,000 of in-kind contributions.

Ballina Shire Council spent $83,000 on the event but this was $36,000 more than was budgeted.

Rivafest has run at a loss for the past four years.



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