'Lost opportunity': Just one major live act at stadium in 18 months

Dunedin Stadium Property Ltd and Dunedin Railways recorded losses, as anticipated. Photo: ODT files
Forsyth Barr Stadium. Photo: ODT files
Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium has just one major live music act set to perform within 18 months, through to 2026.

Though international pop superstar Pink is returning to the city with her tour The Summer Carnival 2024 next Tuesday, the stadium’s prospects for other major live acts are relatively quiet.

Last year, the stadium hosted the Red Hot Chili Peppers with Post Malone, Rod Stewart and Six60, which along with the All Blacks v Ireland rugby test, the Highlanders’ home Super Rugby season and Otago rugby matches, brought $32.5 million of direct additional spend to Dunedin, along with 47,500 visitors, the Dunedin Venues 2023 annual report states.

Dunedin Venues chief executive Terry Davies said there were multiple reasons for a lack of future music bookings, which were ultimately down to the market.

Davies has helped bring several major international acts to Dunedin during his time overseeing the stadium, including Elton John, Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar, and Fleetwood Mac.

“There’s no one thing that you could say why a band or artist does want to tour or doesn’t want to, and there’s lots of factors. There’s not a cookie-cutter answer, it’s a complex assessment,” he said.

“Historically, you work on relatively short timeframes anyway. You’re in the hands of bands, management and promoters to plan tours, so it’s no surprise that we were not hearing anything for next summer.

“At this stage, there will be some things that will come through, but because of what’s been going on, it’s a little early [to say]. I think it is a challenging world at the moment.”

He said it would be a normal response for people to blame management for the lack of bookings, but stated that was not the reality.

Davies specified the economic climate and currency risk profiling as being reasons for the lack of bookings.

“The reality is, you’ve got to be real around where you are in the world as well. You’ve got to look at Dunedin versus Auckland...

“Things will get back to normal and we’ll resume back to normal business, but in the short term we’re still we’re still bullish and upbeat about content coming through Australia and New Zealand.”

Terry Davies outside Forsyth Barr Stadium in 2018. Photos: Gerard O'Brien/Supplied
Terry Davies outside Forsyth Barr Stadium with a billboard advertising Pink's 2018 Dunedin show. File photo
Construction of Forsyth Barr Stadium was completed in 2011 at a cost of $206.4m, plus $18m interest, totalling $224.4m.

Davies said the stadium has since “smashed” its initial construction costs and had been outperforming expectations.

“The stadium has delivered an excess of $350m of economic impact in the last 10 years, so you’d argue that that’s a pretty good investment.”

With the construction of Christchurch’s 30,000-capacity stadium Te Kaha set to be completed in 2026, Davies said it would add new complexities to an already competitive market, though Forsyth Barr Stadium had already proven itself to be a great host, he said.

He said it “would be silly to assume” Christchurch’s stadium would dissuade acts from performing in Dunedin, as the capacities of the stadiums would be the same.

“If they’re going to come to the South Island, they’re going to look at either stadium, and if it becomes a competition then so be it, but it’s stupid to think that you’re going to build one stadium elsewhere and they’ll only go to one destination. That’s ridiculous.”

The company’s 2023 annual report showed one employee, understood to be Davies, as earning between $440,000-449,999 that year, making him one of the highest-paid public servants in the city.

Davies said it did not matter who that employee was, but “at the end of the day it’s the board’s decision, and you pay people to deliver results”.

Dunedin Mayor Jules Radich said he had spoken to the stadium’s board of directors on Tuesday and was given a range of reasons for the lack of bookings, including a downturn due to Covid, though he was unable to provide any further information.

“I don’t have the answers that you’re looking for, or the answers that I’m looking for,” he said.

He said the city was looking forward to hosting “tens of thousands of fans” for Pink’s performance next week.

Business South chief executive Mike Collins. Supplied photo
Business South chief executive Mike Collins. Supplied photo
Business South chief executive Mike Collins said the city always welcomed live acts, as they were a huge boost to the local economy.

“We would love to see more, no doubt about that,” Collins said.

“I know that the team down here are trying their hardest to try to get more acts, but I guess from the business community, and just the community’s overall perspective, if there’s quite a long time between acts, that certainly is a kind of bit of a lost opportunity.

“When we do get that utilisation [of the stadium], that’s got a positive knock-on effect, so it’s in everyone’s interest to make sure we do get more concerts down here.”

Forsyth Barr Stadium is still set to host other events throughout the year, including the Highlanders’ home games, and the All Blacks v England match in July.

According to last year’s annual report, Dunedin Venues recorded a net profit after tax of $82,000 for 2023.