Tough times for event organisers

Dunedin Venues Management Ltd (DVML) chief executive Terry Davies outside Forsyth Barr Stadium...
Dunedin Venues Management Ltd (DVML) chief executive Terry Davies outside Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday. PHOTO: Peter McIntoss
Last-minute registrations, snap lockdowns, and general uncertainty are all causing headaches for southern event organisers grappling with the ever-changing effects of Covid-19.

A last-minute alert level change threw event organisers into chaos last weekend, with many having to postpone or cancel planned concerts, sporting events, and shows.

But, organisers note, uncertainty and risk are the new norm in a pandemic-stricken world.

Sport Southland chief executive Brendon McDermott said the organisation took a cost-neutral approach to events to keep prices low, but that did open it up to significant financial risk if events had to be postponed or cancelled.

That was an uncomfortable position for any organisation, but particularly for non-profits.

"We have taken the stance that we will provide full refunds for our events in the event of a Covid-related cancellation, again this is a risk for Sport Southland but it does provide our participants with a degree of certainty and confidence."

Communication was key, especially with food vendors, equipment hirers, and medical support.

It was difficult to quantify what impact the pandemic had on participant numbers, he said.

"We saw some events at the start of the year getting strong support, but it’s understandable that people will be thinking twice due to the uncertainty and concerns about safety.

"One of the knock-on effects of this is catering for a larger-than-normal number of late registrations."

After Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced alert levels would shift back down tomorrow, it confirmed the ICC Surf to City on March 14 would be able to go ahead.

Working in Queenstown, Summit Events owner and Motatapu Events Ltd director Craig Gallagher knows all too well the impact of Covid-19 on the events sector.

The change in alert level meant Mr Gallagher and business partner Gemma Peskett had to cancel this year’s Motatapu multisport event, due to be held this weekend, after only buying it last year.

"It was absolutely devastating," Mr Gallagher said.

While the event terms and conditions meant they only had to pay a 25% refund to entrants, they decided to pay 60%.

Most people had decided to roll their entry forward to 2022, which was great, he said.

But there was still a financial hit.

"There had been substantial money invested into the event already, because of the nature of Motatapu, it’s so remote.

"The financial risk does really start to escalate."

Like Mr McDermott, he was also noticing people waiting until the last minute to register for events.

"People are leaving it very late, to protect themselves.

"Your comfort level starts to shift a bit."

Dunedin Venues Management Ltd (DVML) chief executive Terry Davies said planning, lead times and resourcing were being challenged.

Getting events in was one issue, and maintaining a workforce was another.

"We roll with the punches," he said.

Despite the challenges of Covid-19, he recognised that New Zealand was lucky to still be functioning.

"If you had questioned me in March last year, I would have said we were out of business for 12-18 months.

"We see the glass half full rather than half empty."

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