COVID-19: Auckland Art Festival live shows, WOMAD 2022 cancelled

The upcoming Auckland Art Festival (AAF) has cancelled a slew of shows and this year's WOMAD festival has also been axed due to the Omicron outbreak of COVID-19 in New Zealand.

AAF, due to take place in March, is no longer putting on any of its live events or performances in venues, theatres, or outdoor spaces, axing 51 in total. Some online features and outdoor installations will still go ahead, with more potentially set to be announced.

Refunds are being offered to customers who purchased tickets to the cancelled events.

Among the cancelled shows is comedic opera The Unruly Tourists, based on the infamous group of British travellers who made headlines for bad behaviour in New Zealand in 2019.

"[The Omicron] outbreak has impacted our ability to deliver our beloved annual festival in its entirety for the third time. This outcome - in which we cannot gather in person over a programme packed with joyful live performance and brilliant shared arts experiences - is deeply saddening," AAF Artistic Director Shona McCullagh said on Wednesday.

"We are well aware of the short, medium, and long-term impacts this has on artists and the wider arts sector... but the first and most important element we kept in mind throughout the process was the health and safety of our artists, audiences, staff and crew.

"The festival team and our artists are resilient and endlessly creative, and we will deliver a very special suite of safe events for our audiences in March, while at the same time turning our focus to 2023 with optimism and gusto."

The WOMAD music, art and dance festival was set to take place between March 18 and 20 at Bowl of Brooklands and Brooklands Park in New Plymouth.

Ticket-holders can opt to retain their passes for access to the 2023 festival rather than a refund.

"With deep sadness, we are announcing WOMAD NZ is no longer going ahead for 2022," festival organisers said in a statement.

"We all had great expectations of bringing the festival back to Taranaki after disruptions due to COVID 19 in 2021. It is heartbreaking to cancel for the second year in a row due to circumstances entirely out of our control."

Venture Taranaki Chief Executive Justine Gilliland said the festival's economic impact on the region was $6.1 million when it was last held in 2020.

"We look forward to supporting TAFT [Taranaki Arts Festival Trust] to present WOMAD again in Taranaki for 2023 and will welcome the positive flow-on effects the festival has on the region," she said.

Further information on AAF and WOMAD are available on their respective websites.