Red light stymies Warbirds, other events

Warbirds over Wanaka key organisers (from left) event manager Mandy Deans, Warbirds Over Wanaka...
Warbirds over Wanaka key organisers (from left) event manager Mandy Deans, Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust chairman John Gilks, general manager Ed Taylor and assistant event manager Jane Sharman are disappointed at the cancellation of the popular airshow for the second time. PHOTO: SHANNON THOMSON
Covid-19 has once again grounded the international airshow Warbirds over Wanaka, as event organisers across Otago and Southland yesterday assessed whether the Red traffic light setting would stop their shows going ahead.

As well as the airshow, both the Dunedin and Queenstown home shows, Waitangi Day commemorations and Chinese New Year celebrations in Dunedin were cancelled, following the Dunedin Craft Beer and Food festival and the Masters Games, which were called off on Sunday.

A further eight community transmission cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 were confirmed by the Ministry of Health yesterday, all in the three cases regions affected so far, Auckland, Manawatu and Nelson.

However, because Omicron is highly transmissible and there are numerous locations of interest, including multiple Air New Zealand flights, authorities fear the disease could already be widespread.

Southern health officials reported strong demand for booster vaccinations, yesterday being the busiest day since they became available on January 5.

Many people also rushed out to be vaccinated on Sunday and many providers stayed open longer to cater to the increased demand, Southern District Health Board Covid-19 vaccine rollout programme lead Karl Metzler said.

"If it has been more than four months since your last primary dose of the vaccine, please, go and get your booster shot," Mr Metzler said.

"This will help protect you, your family and your community against Omicron.”

The region’s hospitals were also ramping up for Omicron, yesterday making wearing surgical masks compulsory for patients, visitors and staff.

SDHB Covid-19 hospital operations response lead James Goodwin said staff were also setting up screening systems at hospitals to ensure no visitors with Covid-19 symptoms entered.

"For the safety of our patients and staff, our Covid-19 response team is looking into other ways to reduce the number of visitors at our hospitals at any one time," Mr Goodwin said.

Warbirds Over Wanaka Community Trust chairman John Gilks said he felt bitter disappointment when he heard Sunday’s announcement.

This is the second time the tourist resort’s popular airshow, which traditionally attracts about 55,000 people during three days, has succumbed to Covid-19.

"I feel for the wider community because it’s such an important economic benefit to so many people in the wider community, and for many they won’t be able to make that up — times are tough economically, so I feel for them," Mr Gilks said.

The cancellation would come at a loss, but Mr Gilks said the airshow would be back in two years’ time.

"Fortunately, we’re in a pretty good financial position and I think we’ve got enough funds to carry us through and confidently plan for an airshow in 2024."

Motatapu Off-Road Event co-owner Craig Gallagher said they would wait until tomorrow’s announcement on the Government’s three-stage approach to Omicron before deciding on the status of the March 5 event.

Similarly, the organisers of the Queenstown Marathon (March 19) and the New Zealand Open golf tournament (from March 31) said they would provide an update as soon as possible.

The Upper Clutha A&P Society board is yet to make a decision about whether to cancel this year’s event, and Wanaka A&P Show event manager Jane Stalker said it was too early to say whether the 2022 show would be cancelled.

"At this stage we remain hopeful that we are able to move out of Red and into Orange in the coming weeks.

"We will be watching closely and seeking advice in the meantime."

Members of the Central Otago A&P Society held an emergency meeting regarding the situation last night on whether the 125th Central Otago A&P Show on February 12 would go ahead.

Several Dunedin City Council-run events were cancelled yesterday, including Waitangi Day commemorations at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and Chinese New Year celebrations at the Lan Yuan Chinese Garden.

The inaugural Music in Parks event on February 27 and Sunday Sounds programme at the Dunedin Botanic Garden were also cancelled.

Community development and events manager Joy Lanini said the new restrictions made it impossible to safely manage the events.

"The DCC has taken time to discuss the cancellations with our partners, and while the decision is hugely disappointing, the well-being of our community comes first."

Dunedin and Queenstown home show organiser David Grieve said the events would return in 2023.

Vendors would be given full refunds of their entry fees, although Mr Grieve said he was confident many would let their deposits roll over to the following year.

Both shows had been booked into council-owned venues, which had taken the decision to cancel out of his hands, he said.

Other event organisers were taking more time to decide on the future of their events.

Dunedin Venues Management Ltd chief executive Terry Davies said besides the Dunedin Craft Beer and Food festival there were no other cancellations for its venues yet.

"We don’t control any of that," he said, adding that such cancellations would be up to providers.

A spokeswomen for the Cancer Society’s Relay for Life said the event’s future would be decided later this week.

Likewise, a spokeswoman for the Otago University Students’ Association said no decision had been made about whether Orientation events would go ahead.

One event that was expected to go ahead in some form was the Dunedin Fringe Festival, a spokeswoman saying there were no plans to cancel the event.

Organisers for the Masters Games, which cancelled yesterday, said materials produced for the games would not go to waste.

Masters Games manager Vicki Kestila said hundreds of T-shirts and bags had been printed for the games.

However, organisers were worried the games may be cancelled because of a change to a Red traffic light system, so they did not print any dates on the gear.

The merchandise could be used at the 2024 games when they returned to Dunedin, she said.



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