Rotorua Council Cancels Order for $90k of South Korean Mud after Public Outcry

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In news published by the NZ Herald, Rotorua’s council has bowed to public pressure and backtracked on controversial plans to use South Korean mud at its upcoming Mudtopia festival.

The decision to proceed without the imported mud comes on the same day as the launch of a nationwide petition, run by the New Zealand Tax Payers’ Union in conjunction with the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers Association (RDRR), asking the Rotorua Lakes Council to veto the importation of $90,000 of Korean mud to be used at the event.

Last week in an Operations and Monitoring Committee meeting by the Rotorua council it was revealed that the Mudtopia festival could stand to lose more than $500,000 in its first year due to “negative media publicity” resulting from the importation of South Korean mud for use in the festival.  The public outcry surrounding the deal had severely “increased the risk of sponsorships and ticket sales being affected”.

There had also been significant concern from the rural community about the potential for the South Korean mud to carry foot and mouth disease, as South Korea’s most recent outbreak of the disease was in February this year.

“Given ongoing public concern regarding the importation of cosmetic mud powder from South Korea, the decision has been made to run the festival without it,” said Henry Weston, the council’s operations group acting manager. “This decision follows a meeting with the event’s advisory board and delivery partners.”

Mr Weston said Mudtopia was inspired by the Boryeong mud festival in South Korea and the purchase of highly treated cosmetic grade mud powder was part of a reciprocal arrangement with Boryeong in exchange for intellectual property, advice and promotion of the Rotorua event.

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“The festival team had been working with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) for over a year to ensure there would be no biosecurity risk and the product’s importation was subject to meeting all border requirements.

“However, given the heightened public unease and the importance of needing to alleviate that, we have made the decision to proceed without the imported product.”

In a separate statement, Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said despite best efforts to reassure the public about the safety of Korean cosmetic mud powder, “the public perception is that a risk remains”.

“In light of that I asked that the event organisers consider removing the imported mud from the equation. I’m pleased that decision has now been made so that we can move on and focus on organising a great event.”

Rotorua MP Todd McClay said the council made the right decision “as the issue was becoming a distraction to what is otherwise a good idea”.

“Mudtopia retains the potential to promote Rotorua as a must-visit destination and bring many more visitors to our city. We are famous for geothermal attractions, world-class spa facilities and our mud – this festival can showcase the best of Rotorua to the world.”

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