Former Central Otago deputy mayor Daphne Hull is calling on WoolOn Fashion Awards organisers to rethink their decision to shift the event from Alexandra to Cromwell.
Mrs Hull, who was also a founding member of the Otago Central Rail Trail Trust and was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to tourism and recreation earlier this year, also wants WoolOn organisers to hold a public meeting to explain the reasons why they have decided to hold the 2020 event at Highlands Motorsport Park.
WoolOn chairwoman Victoria Ravenscroft announced the decision on Monday and said the WoolOn committee was “excited” about the event being held at Highlands. She said it was hoped the new venue would mean the event would gain “more exposure for designers and sponsors”.
But many designers, former designers and community leaders have said they are “angry”, “disappointed” and “sad” about the event leaving Alexandra and it is a blow to the town.
Multi-award-winning Alexandra designer Daphne Randle, who has won several awards at WoolOn and other fashion events, including winning the WoolOn supreme award several times, said she was “broken-hearted” the event would not be held in Alexandra next year and she would not enter it for that reason.
The debate follows months of uncertainty and calls for the awards to remain in Alexandra. This year’s event, scheduled to have been held in August, was cancelled in June as organisers cited venue issues.
Ms Ravenscroft said Highlands was chosen from a shortlist of three venues. The other two were from Alexandra and included the Dunstan High School gymnasium, which was the WoolOn venue for many years.
The fashion awards originated in Alexandra in the 1980s as part of the Merino Shears, and evolved into WoolOn.
Mrs Randle said there had been no consultation with designers about the venue for the next WoolOn, nor about a change the committee made to the WoolOn constitution in August that took out a rule the event must be held within 18km of Alexandra.
An accompanying statement from Ms Ravenscroft to Charities Services (formerly the Charities Commission) on August 2 about the change said it would allow “for the event to be moved to a new venue which in turn will ensure the growth of Woolon into the future”.
Asked if the WoolOn committee had tried to keep the event in Alexandra, Ms Ravenscroft said “the committee looked at all options carefully and this decision was not made lightly”.
Mrs Hull said she was “irate” about the event leaving Alexandra, and about the change of WoolOn’s constitution without any public consultation or notification.
“This is so wrong that I believe the committee should be facing their local community and giving them some answers.”
Alexandra businesswoman Janice Millis, one of the founders of the precursor of WoolOn in the 1980s, said it was “disappointing” the event would not be held in Alexandra next year.
She was comfortable it was being held in Cromwell “this time”, but wanted the event to return to Alexandra.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan and Vincent Community Board chairman Martin McPherson were also disappointed the event was leaving Alexandra.
Mr McPherson said WoolOn was an “Alexandra-centric” event and organisers had “failed to explore” venue options.
Mr Cadogan said he was disappointed that “what was becoming an iconic Alexandra event is moving, especially without that community having a chance to retain it through a funding application to the Vincent Community Board”.