27 Mar 2018

Cheerin' Sheeran: Dunedin set to reap $34m

11:27 am on 27 March 2018

Ed Sheeran's tour in Dunedin this week has been called the city's biggest event ever, and is hoped to bring its biggest economic windfall since the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

This is Sheeran's sixth trip to New Zealand.

This is Sheeran's sixth trip to New Zealand. Photo: RNZ/Dan Cook

Pop superstar Sheeran will play three shows in Dunedin on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, following on from his three sold-out shows in Auckland.

Instead of being spread over four weeks, more than 60,000 visitors will descend on the city over four days, bringing a predicted $34 million into the local economy.

His visit was at the forefront of the debate about relaxing Easter trading laws in the city, a controversial bylaw was passed allowing retailers to open on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

His concerts are also why more than 30 bars will be able to open on those normally sacrosanct days and why part of the Octagon will be converted into a pedestrian-only hub for his fans at a cost of $60,000.

Claire Grenfell, owner of The Craic - the bar which paved the way for opening on sacrosanct days - said it was all worth it.

"I think we are all expecting it to be huge as far as people dining out all day - breakfast, lunch, dinner - heading away to the concert and coming back after the concert. But it's five full days of that amount of people in Dunedin, we've never really dealt with anything on this scale before."

Sheeran's presence would also have a positive impact on local charity. For the bars in town to open early on the sacrosanct days of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, a door charge had to be in place under the Supply and Sale of Alcohol Act.

Mrs Grenfell said after-midnight patrons would pay a one-off $5 charge to get into their first bar and be provided with a stamp to allow them to move among venues.

All the money raised from that would be donated to the Otago Community Hospice.

Dunedin Venues chief executive Terry Davies said the benefits were huge.

"To try and comprehend it, when we put it on sale, the sell-out of show two took about six minutes. So, this is the scale of the individual," Mr Davies said.

"We are forecasting around a $34 million economic impact for the weekend. So when you talk about significant, I don't know if there's been anything as significant as this for a very long time.

"We've got 100,000-plus tickets sold here, 60,000 people coming here and some are going to do multiple shows and be here for the weekend so they are spending a longer time here. That multiplier effect of the economic impact is significant."

Mr Davies said shows at the Forsyth Barr Stadium this year were expected to bring in $100m to the city's economy this year, with Sheeran's three-night stint bringing in about a third of that.

In the singer's honour, Dunedin is not just rolling out the red carpet for the singer-songwriter, but has reserved an Ed-shaped space in the city's heart with a 3m-tall mural of him adorning a wall in Bath Street.

Almost everything the city had done to herald Sheeran's arrival had been met with some criticism, particularly online, but the $8000 mural certainly divided opinion the most.

Nicol Kennedy - one of the owners of Laneway Cafe just down from the mural - said even the artwork was already proving to have positive spinoffs in the area.

"The art's fantastic, it's brought heaps of people down Bath Street. No one really came down here before, unless they had a reason to."

It had provided a notable increase in foot traffic, Ms Kennedy said, and she had already noticed a number people stopping to take photos of it.

"It's brought a really good vibe to the street."

The council created an Ed Sheeran Governance Group to handle logistics and its head, Ed Sheeran manager Simon Pickford - who for his day job holds a senior leadership role at the council - said it had been a huge undertaking.

"Dunedin won't have seen anything like these before," he said.

"This is the biggest event, or series of events, we've had in Dunedin ever.

"Up to 120,000 people, with 70 percent of those coming from outside of Dunedin, descending over those four days for those three concerts. We've never seen anything quite like that and that's why we've really ramped it up to make it a special event for their visit, not just at the concert but for their experience of Dunedin.

"It's a huge exercise. Everything from the transport - making sure people are able to get from the airport to the city - to their accommodation and from there to the Octagon and to the concerts and back home again safely."

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