Event industry desperate for future strategy to survive COVID-19

Event companies are anxiously biding their time as the COVID-19 Delta outbreak in New Zealand wreaks havoc with planning.

The industry is desperate for a future-proof strategy so mass participation events can survive.

As the weather warms up, so does our hope of a summer full of festivities.

"We'll have 23,000 joining us this New Year," Rhythm and Vines founder and director Hamish Pinkham says.

However, while the risk of COVID-19 remains, the iconic music festival's planning is on pause.

"It's certainly dynamic, slightly uncertain. We've got time on our side. We're unique, we've sold out tickets, and it's just a waiting game really to see some clarity around mass events near the end of the year," Pinkham says.

Jon Holmes of Event Goals is planning three large events including the Christchurch Marathon and North Canterbury Wine and Food Festival, which was a COVID-19 casualty earlier this year.

"It's the lack of communication that's difficult for us. We need to know if there are going to be restrictions in place for a long period of time," he says.

Uncertainty forced the cancellation of Canterbury's A&P Show last year. This year, they opted for a safety net - a $1 million council loan, approved the same day the country's latest outbreak was reported.

"So that we had some security for our staff some security for our exhibitors. We're a 159-year-old organisation and we need to make sure that history is maintained and that we future-proof ourselves," says Canterbury A&P Association general manager Tracy Ahern.

A $50 million Regional Event Fund was set up before the Delta outbreak to support both the tourism and events sector. But neither can operate during lockdown restrictions.

The New Zealand Event Association wrote to the Government out of desperation. A spokesperson for the Minister for Economic Development and Tourism said using a portion of the fund for insurance could be considered, but there hadn't been enough buy-in from the industry.

"There needs to be some more collaboration between industry and Government," Pinkham says.

Everyone is hoping it's a summer of celebration - not isolation.