Organiser stands by Queenstown conference with Auckland guests

Queenstown Airport. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Queenstown Airport. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
The organiser of a conference held in Queenstown which includes Aucklanders as guests says it is going ahead because Government rules allow it.

This is despite Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s call for people from Auckland to avoid mass gatherings.

"Please don’t attend a mass gathering, even if it is not in Auckland," she said.

It comes amid concern of Covid-19 spreading from Auckland, and with memories fresh of a significant cluster — linked to 39 cases — emerging from the World Hereford Conference in Queenstown in March.

The Morgo conference is being held at the Heritage Hotel on Thursday and Friday.

Attendees have been invited for networking drinks and dinner tomorrow evening.

Conference Jenny Morel organiser did not say how many Aucklanders were going to the event, but pointed out rules on the  Government's Unite against Covid-19  website said visits to public and event venues were not social gatherings.

This specifically included visits to conference venues.

"It is social gatherings that are restricted to 10 people in Auckland and therefore of concern to the Government. 

"However events such as Morgo – conferences, are not restricted beyond the standard level 2 protocols and allow for 100 people anywhere in NZ (with appropriate spacing, masks etc).

"This means that we could even run Morgo with 100 people in Auckland in compliance with the regulations.

"The travel requirements also say don’t travel to events that don’t meet the Level 2 requirements, which Morgo does," Ms Morel said.

Protocols for such events include keeping one metre physical distance from people you do not know.

She said there was no reference to mass gatherings on the Government website, which instead talked about limits on social gatherings.

A visitor from Auckland spoken to by the Otago Daily Times at Queenstown Airport yesterday was planning to attend the event.

He said the conference was aimed at tech companies working to expand offshore.

Of the more than 15 speakers listed for the event, many are from Auckland, but it was unclear if they were all still attending.

According to posts on social media, the sold-out event is being limited to 100 people to meet Alert Level 2 restrictions.

"We’re so pleased #MorgoQueenstown is going ahead next week, masks and all," a post from the conference on Twitter said.

The website says: "Morgo Speaker’s [sic] don’t just fly in and fly out — They stay and connect with the Morgo Community!"

In Auckland, under Alert Level 2.5, gatherings are limited to 10 people.

Among the partners listed for the conference are the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

A Southern District Health Board spokeswoman said it was looking at the Morgo conference situation, but could not comment further about the situation last night.

The visitor attending the conference was one of many Aucklanders arriving into Queenstown yesterday — a total of six Air New Zealand flights landed from the city throughout the day.

Air New Zealand would not comment on load numbers.

Aucklander Leigh Osborne was on one of them and said she was heading to Wanaka with her two children.

She was relieved to have booked a flight the day after the end of Auckland’s Level 3 restrictions.

“We made it by the skin of our teeth.

“Some people were a bit tense about being on a plane, I think, but we were pretty relaxed.

“We were dying to get away.

"Just arriving here and seeing people without masks, it was quite nice."

Michael Jackson, also from Auckland, visiting Queenstown for the first time, was holidaying for three days with his wife.

“We just scraped in ... pretty lucky."

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