'They will close': Entertainment venues cry out for rethink of COVID-19 mass gathering rules

A group representing many of New Zealand's entertainment venues is desperately asking for a change to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions which continue to devastate the industry. 

EVANZ includes over 120 venues around Aotearoa and says some will be forced to close due to the current alert level rules for mass gatherings.

The pandemic has so far killed more than 816,000 people around the world and infected nearly 24 million.

New Zealand's relative success in fighting the effects of the pandemic has been achieved in part due to an alert level system put in place by the Government - but some industries are arguing for changes to the system.

Mark Gosling, EVANZ board member and CEO of Trusts Arena, is asking for a rethink of the rules lest further financial aid be required for the industry.

"We don't agree that larger events can't go ahead safely under Level 2. We don't believe social distancing rules should be the new normal in theatres, venues and at events," says Gosling.

"Compulsory masks are great, temperature checks on arrival are fine, new ways of ticketing people to stop human-to-human contact are fine, but we cannot keep postponing and cancelling events, tours and performances without more financial support for the sector.

"We don't want our future to be empty rugby stadia and online performance. So we have to find other ways of keeping events running and our venues open."

Gosling says that the changes in alert levels creates uncertainty for arts organisations which typically have long planning and rehearsal periods.

He is asking the Government to involve the industry in discussions about proposed 1.5 and 2.5 alert levels.

"The fact is, many of New Zealand's beloved independent venues are hanging by a thread, and they will close," Gosling says.

There are so many beautiful, historical and community venues across the country which mean so much, and bring so much heritage, visitation and storytelling, to the communities in which they sit. While the wage subsidy has provided some support until now, many of our members are nervous about the future and - when it comes to financial support - are falling through the cracks."

Auckland is scheduled to move out of COVID-19 alert level 3 on the evening of Sunday, August 30.