Govt decision means shows can go on

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash. Photo: ODT files.
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash. Photo: ODT files.
The Government’s decision to underwrite summer festivals this year is giving some of Otago’s big event organisers the confidence to spend millions of dollars on their shows.

Economic and Regional Development Minister Stuart Nash yesterday announced the events transition support scheme, under which the Government will pick up the lion’s share of upfront costs that cannot be recovered if the Covid-19 pandemic forces cancellations.

‘‘Organisers of large-scale summer festivals have to make decisions now about whether to proceed as their risk window is closing,’’ Mr Nash said.

‘‘There aren’t insurance options in the market to cover this so the Government is stepping up as a type of underwriter.’’

Gibbston Valley concert general manager Dean Calvert, of Greenstone Entertainment, and Rhythm and Alps festival director Alex Turnbull, of Wanaka, said they felt confident to proceed, knowing losses caused by public health decisions could be covered.

Mr Calvert planned to announce the next Gibbston Valley line-up soon.

Last summer’s international line-up had to be changed at the last minute because of Covid-19.

Next year the concert would be in March rather than January, to get more planning security.

Each Gibbston Valley concert since 2011 would have cost $1 million to $2 million to organise, with costs sunk well before the event, Mr Calvert said.

A survey of concertgoers last year had estimated the event would be worth between $15 million and $20 million to the economy, which was why big events should continue, he said.

Mr Turnbull’s events company has several major events on around New Zealand this summer, including Rhythm and Alps in the Cardrona Valley and a series of Shapeshifter concerts.

He was just about to spend an ‘‘enormous amount of cash ... in excess of $5million easily’’ and it was impossible to get cancellation insurance, he said.

‘‘We are going to go for it ... [All up] there’s roughly 40,000 to 50,000 tickets on the line here,’’ Mr Turnbull said.

One of the region’s largest events, the Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow, falls outside the scheme’s cutoff period by two weeks, which was disappointing for airshow charitable trust chairman John Gilks and general manager Ed Taylor.

Mr Taylor said it was great the Government had listened to the events sector’s calls for underwriting. Missing out would not stop Warbirds 2022.

‘‘We just have to hope — that’s all we can do — there’s nothing comes up between now and April to make us cancel,’’ Mr Gilks said.

Wanaka’s economy took an estimated $20million hit in 2020 when the Warbirds airshow was cancelled just four weeks out and 55,000 visitors stayed away.

The trust incurred a $285,737 deficit for the year ended September 2020, a combination of cancellation costs and normal operating costs.

Mr Gilks said the cancellation hurt financially ‘‘but not as much as if we had carried on’’.

‘‘Fast forward to now, we are no different to any other event. It is a little bit scary.

‘‘Right now, every month that goes by, we are spending money towards the 2022 airshow ... It is not an easy situation to be in. But, as of today, we are confident the show in 2022 will go ahead.’’

Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival organiser the Otago University Students’ Association was cautiously optimistic about the announcement.

‘‘At first glance, this is a positive step from Government,’’ chief executive Debbie Downs said.

‘‘This allows us surety running the festival in the current climate. There is a massive financial risk in trying to stage large-scale events, and this will potentially go a long way for allowing us to proceed with confidence.’’




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