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Council struggling to deliver events

28 Feb 2017

By Shane Scanlan

The $500,000 worth of events designed to compensate Docklands for last year’s loss of marketing organisation Destination Docklands are proving difficult to deliver.

The City of Melbourne last August tendered for the delivery of three events and in October appointed Fruitbowl Productions to run a Christmas event, a winter festival and one other event to be concluded by June 30.

However, documents released under Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation reveal that Fruitbowl’s winning vision was only partially delivered at Christmas. It also now seems almost certain that its proposed 2017 events are likely to be abandoned in favour of other options and won’t be completed by the deadline.

And while Docklands may well get good marketing and promotional value from the alternatives, the departure from Fruitbowl’s proposal raises probity issues around the tendering process.

The council says it always intended to “work in collaboration with the successful tenderer on their proposed event concepts to determine the most suitable activations for the precinct.”

But, unsuccessful tenderers have pointed out the definitive nature of what was actually asked for and are concerned that the council may, effectively, steal their ideas and deliver them via a rival contractor.

The tender document said: “The contractor is required to provide a strategic solution for the operational and creative delivery of three key events in the Docklands precinct.”

It asked for: “Full end-to-end management of the proposed event program including all activities in relation to planning, producing, delivery and acquittal.”

The tender documents clearly state that the council’s role was confined to permitting, marketing and connecting the successful tenderer to stakeholders.

As reported in the December/January Docklands News, the council took until November 28 to announce the Docklands Christmas activation – leaving almost no time for local businesses to take advantage of the opportunity.

And the event that was staged was a mere shadow of what Fruitbowl had submitted to the council by the tender closing date of September 12.

The sad, sunburned and windblown dead pine trees that were eventually removed before the allocated time from Harbour Esplanade were supposed to be the centre of a popular tree decorating competition.

Fruitbowl’s winning bid said: “We will invite schools and members of the public to come and decorate the Docklands Christmas Trees as part of a tree decorating competition.”

“High profile Melbourne fashion designers, chefs, footy teams and other community members with links to Docklands will also be involved in the decoration of the trees – building media and public interest and providing engagement opportunities within this space.”

“Imagine the joy of kids taking their parents to see the tree they decorated, or restaurants and shops having their own decorated tree outside their premises.

Charity partners will be involved with people being encouraged to leave gifts under the trees for disadvantaged kids.”

“High profile judges will choose the best Christmas tree designs and decoration, in addition to people’s choice category with voting both on site and online.”

The trees were supposed to be lit up with: “thousands of fairy lights, creating a backdrop to the stunning Christmas projections that will illuminate Docklands buildings and the waterfront.”

There was even talk of relocating the City Square Christmas Tree to Docklands. Other tantalising deliverables were: Daily picnics in the “forest”; Nightly “Carols and Cocktails” events; Roving carolers on Friday and Saturday nights; Outdoor stages with concerts; and Santa’s Summer Sleigh, which would see the jolly man arrive by water-skis behind a police boat.

Explaining the failure to deliver, the council said: “Due to a short production and delivery timeframe for the first event, it was decided that keynote activations such as the Christmas tree forest and light projections were a priority.”

Fruitbowl’s next scheduled event was supposed to be next month (April) and would have been outdoor cinema near Ron Barassi Snr Park.

“Bring back all the nostalgia and good times of the old time drive-in,” Fruitbowl said in its winning tender bid. “Imagine an outdoor cinema in the middle of Melbourne that you could enjoy in a deck chair, car or bean bag.”

Last month, there was four instances of outdoor cinema in Docklands. Perhaps not surprisingly, this event appears to have been cancelled.

The council said: “We will continue to work with Fruitbowl Productions to ensure the remaining project budget is used to produce two further events in the precinct, one of which will be held in June. The timing of the third event is still being determined.”

Local businesses are hoping that they will be given plenty of time to market around the winter event but, as yet, no specifics have emerged.

Fruitbowl won the tender on the basis of staging a “winter solstice” activation at NewQuay between June 22 and 25.

It’s bid envisaged: “A gathering place on the water, transformed by colour, light and fire. Egalitarianism and fun live at the heart of this festival – amazing fireworks, casual communal tables in the public domain, atmospheric outdoor heating, a broad range of affordable food sold outside by Docklands’ chefs, accessible and unexpected roving and popup entertainment and local participation – all combining to ensure that everyone can enjoy this event.”

Interestingly, it included daily fireworks – “choreographed fireworks displays each night, set to music befitting our winter theme with fire drums (gas) throughout the site to warm our audience and keep them there!”

Docklands News applied for access to the Fruitbowl submission on January 6, with the council refusing to supply it. An FoI request was then made.

On February 20 the council granted “supervised” access to the non-financial details with Docklands News paying for an officer to be present to ensure no copying took place other than note taking. The council said copies could not be provided because Fruitbowl Productions had claimed copyright over the content.

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