5 May 2020

New Zealand Agricultural Show cancelled

3:21 pm on 5 May 2020

The South Island's largest springtime event, the New Zealand Agricultural Show, has been cancelled for the first time since World War 2.

Canterbury A and P Show - cow

Photo: RNZ / Nicola Grigg

Organisers said public safety concerns and a fragile financial position were behind the decision to cancel this year's November show.

The Canterbury A&P Association made the announcement today, saying the likelihood of a lingering response to the Covid-19 crisis made planning for such a large event untenable.

It was now also calling for public help to secure the event's long-term future.

The association said it has been a proud guardian of the show for 157 years, which existed to promote rural excellence and bring rural and urban audiences together at one of New Zealand's largest community events.

Event director Geoff Bone said that with the scheduled November date looming, and with a large chunk of the budget already spent, they pulled the plug rather than face bankruptcy.

Bone said it was gut-wrenching, but there was no choice.

"By cancelling today, the association is protecting its future and I guess the future for all the communities that are involved in the show."

He said the show was "highly anticipated" by many each year, from the children who began training their cattle in April to the families that looked forward to the Shetland steeplechase and the candy floss.

"The amount of work that goes into putting on the show is colossal, and the volunteers should be extremely proud of what they have grown the show to be."

Bone said it was a difficult time for everyone, but it was the right decision to cancel.

"We know that if we continue to spend significant amounts of money preparing for the show, there is a risk we won't be able to go ahead in November.

"If that were to happen, and we were to find out in October that we couldn't run in November, we would be bankrupt because we would have spent too much money."

Bone said there was always a considerable amount of work done to plan a show between December and May.

"We have spent all of our savings - the association built up a rainy-day fund of almost half a million dollars over the last 10 years, slowly and conservatively, and that's all gone."

He said it did however mean the association was able to meet all its obligations and do the right thing by the business community which invested in it.

"We are now running a Show Saviour programme so that we can rebuild a modest fund to re-launch next year," he said.

The campaign called on anyone who had a connection with the show to help it fight for survival.

The show's president Chris Herbert said that without external support, its future was threatened.

Bone said rekindled interest in the rural sector saw the country through the last recession, and he hoped it would be the same again this time.

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