Covid-19: government red light drives the events industry

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Major events across New Zealand have been canceled and more are expected after the country went into red light setting at 11.59pm on Sunday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s announcement sent the events industry into a whirlwind as promoters and organizers were forced to reassess their plans. Under Red, indoor and outdoor events are limited to 100 people.

In Christchurch, the Great Kiwi Beer Festival at Hagley Park on January 29 has been canceled, as has the New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin from February 5-13, which was expected to attract 3,405 competitors.

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In Wellington, the much-loved Lunar New Year festival, due to run from February 1-12, has canceled many of its big events, including the parade and Asian market.

In Auckland, New Zealand Fashion Week, which was to be held from February 7 to 12, was canceled as well as the Splore festival at Tāpapakanga Regional Park.

The Auckland Pride Festival, following last week’s announcements about the cancellation of the Big Gay Out and the Rainbow Pride Parade, will also not take place. It’s supposed to run for most of February.

Many other events are under threat, including the South Island Wine and Food Festival in Christchurch on February 5, the Coast to Coast multi-sport event on February 11 and 12, the Buller Marathon near Westport on February 12 and the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival on February 12. March.

Promoter and music manager Brent Eccles, who manages many of New Zealand’s biggest bands and overseas tours, said the middle ground “doesn’t look too bright” under the red light.

Kiwi Six60’s New Zealand and Australian tour was due to begin in early March. Eccles had yet to decide if it would go ahead.

Things

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a nationwide switch to setting Covid red lights from midnight on Sunday.

Tour dates could be pushed back, he said, once there was more certainty.

“We have contingency plans for all of our shows and as we move forward we will put them in place.

“They [the Government] we change the rules from time to time so maybe it’s not as bleak as we think but most of us think it’s going to be a tough road in an industry that’s been hit pretty hard for a few years now.

Team Event director Callam Mitchell said more than 10,000 tickets have already been sold for next weekend’s beer festival in Christchurch.

He said he had no choice but to cancel the event, which was to feature 70 brewers and food stalls.

Ticket holders will be able to get refunds.

The company holds other major events in Christchurch, including the South Island Wine & Food Festival on February 5, Nostalgia on February 12 and Electric Avenue on February 26.

A decision has yet to be made on whether the Electric Avenue Music Festival will take place on February 26.

JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Stuff

A decision has yet to be made on whether the Electric Avenue Music Festival will take place on February 26.

No decision had yet been made on those events, but Mitchell said the wine festival was unlikely to go ahead.

“We just have to tackle one thing at a time.”

Mitchell said he was disgusted with the government’s announcement. He hoped to use the government’s insurance scheme, announced last year, which covers 90% of sunk costs for canceled or postponed events with more than 5,000 attendees.

However, Venues Ōtautahi, which has 53 events scheduled in February and March across its five Christchurch locations, is not eligible for the scheme.

Chief executive Caroline Harvie-Teare said the impact of going red would be severe for the company and she called on the government to reinstate the wage subsidy.

She estimated that around 19% of the 53 events could take place because they could operate with less than 100 people.

It is not yet known if Wellington's annual local music festival on the waterfront will take place on March 19.

Ross Giblin / Stuff

It is not yet known if Wellington’s annual local music festival on the waterfront will take place on March 19.

Another term could pass without crowds, including Super Rugby matches and the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup, which is due to start across New Zealand from March 4.

Harvie-Teare said about 53% of events could be rescheduled for another time.

The company was under significant financial pressure due to high fixed costs, she said.

Owned by Christchurch City Council, Ōtautahi owns Christchurch Town Hall, Christchurch Arena, Orangetheory Stadium, Hagley Oval and has event space at the New Zealand Air Force Museum .

Andrew Tuck of Homegrown Events, who run Jim Beam Homegrown on Wellington’s waterfront, said it was too early to decide whether to cancel this year’s event. They are expected to place a call four to five weeks from the March 19 start date.

Homegrown was canceled in 2020, but continued last year.

“We’re running multiple options,” Tuck said.

“Now we are following instructions from the powers that be and making that call when they provide more information.”

“I think it takes a little more water under the bridge before we start to put those facets into play.”

The government signaled last week that it would switch to the red light setting when Omicron begins to spread in the community. However, the national events industry body said the move came ahead of schedule. New Zealand Events Association chief executive Segolene de Fontenay said the change would have a major impact.

“It is too early to say how many events will be affected based on how long the country remains at a red light.

“Given that we are still in the middle of the peak season for leisure events, in addition to all the types of events that were due to take place last year during Delta’s last lockdown and [were] postponed to this summer.

De Fontenay said they were hoping for a “short, sharp red light” that would give assurance to events planned for April and beyond.

“We don’t know yet if the government-backed insurance … will be extended after April 3.”

New Zealand Fashion Week chief executive and founder Dame Pieter Stewart said it was not viable for designers to hold a show within the 100-person limit.

“It is incredibly disappointing for everyone involved that the event has been cancelled.

“Our designers put in a huge amount of work, as did our partners, buyers, models, production crews and a number of other people.”

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