Shift to red traffic light setting disrupts major events

Major events have been cancelled or are on the brink of doing so under the red traffic light setting, in which gatherings are capped at 100 people if vaccine passes are enforced.

But the hospitality industry is reassuring punters cafes, bars and restaurants are still a safe environment under the red setting.

The shift to red has set off a cascade of cancellations: The Others Way festival, the New Zealand Masters Games, Christchurch's Great Kiwi Beer Festival, and New Zealand Fashion Week have all pulled the pin.

The Coast to Coast and the Queenstown Marathon are now in doubt.

Sculpture on the Peninsula, a fundraising event for the Cholmondeley Children’s Centre, was due to be held next weekend but will now be held online.

Madagascar - the Musical, which was to take place at the Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch, has been cancelled.

Events under threat also include the South Island Wine and Food Festival in Christchurch on February 5, the Buller Marathon near Westport on February 12, Nostalgia on February 12, Electric Avenue on February 26 and the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival on March 12.

The Splore festival, a three-day event with music, camping, children's activities and a wellness area near Auckland, has been cancelled for the first time in 22 years.

Organiser John Minty said there was no way the festival at Tāpapakanga Regional Park could have gone ahead under the stricter setting rules.

"The biggest problem is actually the crew and your artists and your audience," he said.

"Omicron is, obviously, super infectious, and then you've got contacts that will have to isolate for seven to 10 days.

"So from a practical point of view, it could be very hard to put on a large event, even though you could keep it relatively safe, because you'd be down on so many crew and artists, who might get infected the week before the event, then they might have six or seven close contacts that would have to isolate."

Minty was hopeful the event could still go ahead safely.

"We were hoping maybe there might be some nuance, to treat outdoor events a little bit differently, but that's a pretty bold call, particularly with Omicron."

Waikato's Festival One event organiser Graham Burt said postponing the Christian festival just one week out was a blow.

The four-day Christian festival was set to kick off in Karāpiro this Friday.

Graham said months of work, and major final preparations had come to nothing.

"We have a volunteer team of about 600 people that help put this thing together, and some of them have been here building for a week or more in some cases.

"It's blimmin' hard when you've been working in the hot sun for days, with the anticipation that the work of your hands will be enjoyed by thousands of people, then you've got just turn around and take it all down, with nobody looking at it and seeing what you've done and not being able to host anybody and have fun."

Under the red setting rules, events are capped to 100 people, spaced one-metre apart, if vaccine passes are enforced.

Without vaccine passes, that number drops to 25 people.

In cafes, bars and restaurants, customers have to be seated and separated, staff must be masked and a maximum of 100 people can be at a venue when vaccine passes are in use.

Hospitality New Zealand spokesperson Julie White said your local coffee shop or restaurant was still one of the safest places to visit under this setting.

"Everyone's vaccinated, we're separated, we've been planning with the government for this, we know what to do," she said.

"What we do, as hospitality operators, is look after people."

She asked customers to be patient and follow the public health rules to keep everyone safe.

"It's wearing masks, it's being tolerant when you're being asked to show your vaccine pass," she said.

"It's really important that we stick to these rules, because if we can keep Omicron under control, that means that we won't go into a lockdown and our industry, a lot of them won't survive another lockdown."

And if you need a few hours of escapism, the cinemas are still open.

Movie-goers will be seated one-metre apart and have to show their vaccine pass.

The prime minister has warned New Zealanders to expect to be in the red setting for some weeks.

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