The full story behind the decision to move National Agricultural Fieldays online

In past years the event has attracted 130,000 people over four days.
In past years the event has attracted 130,000 people over four days. Photo credit: Supplied

Organisers of Fieldays say it was a tough decision to move the event online this year, but they had no other choice. 

On Thursday it was confirmed the physical event wouldn't take place in June as originally planned, but would instead be held completely online. 

The decision came after COVID-19 restrictions limited the number of people allowed to attend public gatherings.

After being postponed in March, organisers later signalled the event would be held online, with a date of July 13-26 confirmed on Thursday.

Peter Nation, chief executive of the New Zealand National Fieldays Society, says it takes 12 months of planning to pull off the massive venture - meaning simply shifting it back a month or two just wasn't practical.

In past years, Fieldays has attracted 130,000 people over the four days it runs, and Nation says the event uses "as much electricity as Te Awamutu township".

"The actual build time [is] ten to eight weeks to put it together," Nation told Rural Today on Friday. 

"There's probably about 2000 contractors onsite. Last year we inducted just over 13,000 builders and contractors to the site to put it together - it's a really big task, we're building a small city."

The event normally takes place at Mystery Creek, near Hamilton.

Nation said so far organisers had processed around half of the existing exhibitors, with 68 percent of those opting for site credit or signing up for the online event. Site credit meant the exhibitors had decided to leave the money they had spent with Fieldays for next year's event, Nation said. 

Thirty-two percent of those processed so far had opted for a refund.

Nation said pushing the event back in the year would have brought a number of complications.

"It falls right in the middle of winter - [that's] very poor timing for a lot of our growers, farmers, customers," he explained.

"And the other consideration, which we got feedback on from our exhibitors, was we didn't want to have to invest in two events which were potentially six or seven months apart."

Despite the change of format, Nation said there had been lots of support from the community.

"We're fully aware that companies are hurting out there and cashflow's important to them - and that's why we made a decision to do a refund in part, or they've got a bit of choice," Nation said.

"Myself and the team have been overwhelmed by the support to the organisation and to the event. A lot of them are looking forward to next year in June, which is exciting, because we need some excitement once and again to keep us up."

The online event will run for two weeks, instead of the usual four days.