27 Aug 2021

Lockdowns bite again for large events planned around the country

7:47 am on 27 August 2021

The organisers of Auckland's Home Show are asking the government for a level 2 exemption so the event can go ahead in November.

The Auckland Home Show.

The Auckland Home Show. Photo: Auckland Home Show

The show, which has been postponed for the third time in the past year due to lockdowns, can only go ahead in level 1 because indoor gatherings are restricted to 100 people.

But organisers say they can run a safe event in level 2 and it's no different to being in a shopping mall.

General Manager Amanda Magnus said before this lockdown the business had already lost over $1.5 million in revenue because of the previous postponements.

"That's building marquees taking down marquees, flooring marquees, removing the flooring. All of that has happened twice, marketing costs and overhead costs. So yeah, one $1.5m that the owner has lost unrecoupable."

The Auckland Home Show runs for four days and includes over 450 exhibitors.

Even under alert level 2, the home show can't go ahead, despite shopping malls being allowed to be open.

"Shopping malls, where hundreds of thousands of shoppers go through and there's really nobody policing whether they are using their contract tracing app or not, are allowed to open at level 2, and we are not. And yet we can tell you every single exhibitor and visitor that's on site at any one time, and we have a strict risk management framework already in play. I believe we can run a safe exhibition at Level 2."

"We are not a concert, we are not all crowding on top of each other. It's no different to a shopping mall... if the shopping mall can be open at level 2, why can a home show not be open at level 2? I just don't get it."

Meanwhile, other large-scale events have also had to change their plans.

The AIMS Games is the country's largest intermediate-aged sports competition, with over 11,000 athletes, plus their supporters and 1800 officials travelling to Tauranga for a week-long competition.

It was due to start in a week's time, but the latest Delta outbreak has forced it to be cancelled for the second year in a row.

Tournament director Vicki Semple said the tournament, which takes place across 29 venues, could only go ahead in alert level 1.

"It was just utterly heart-breaking having to cancel. The first thing that went through my mind was the 11,000 athletes that would have been feeling so devastated because the countdown was on.

"It feels like a big burden, but we really didn't have any other choice. The safety and well-being of all our athletes and supporters is our absolute priority and if we compromised on that, we would be compromising on the very ethos of our tournament."

Semple said the cancellation of the tournament has had a huge impact on the local economy.

"They're set to lose $10 million from the event not being held. Also, just heart-breaking for all our contractors that have been with us for 18 years. They've basically lost our work overnight - we had so many marquees going up, we have Saint John at so many of our sites. Power, portaloos, so many different contractors which will be hugely affected by this."

Countless weddings have also had to be cancelled or postponed across the country, leaving the wedding industry feeling the pinch.

Wedding planner Paula Bevege said it's a very uncertain time at the moment, for both businesses and bride and grooms to be.

"I think everyone's really scared, and I think there were lots of comments last season about 'I'm only just hanging in there, hopefully this year will be good' and, when we had the Wedding Show in May, everyone was feeling really enthusiastic and really looking forward to getting back into things this year.

"So I imagine that there's a lot of really nervous people and a lot of really stressed people currently looking at their businesses and thinking 'what am I actually going to do now?'"

She said Covid-19 has changed the way she plans weddings, and even at level 2 a lot of weddings won't realistically go ahead.

"Even in level 2, lots of couples don't feel comfortable to hold their weddings, they don't feel it's a responsible thing to do, or they're not able to get the guest list down to 100, or there's just so many key people missing from Australia or around the world, so they just don't want to go ahead.

"The reality is that there will be a big percentage of those couples this year that we're going to get married, that were actually postponed last from last year and are they going to take another postponement? Or will they just cancel?"

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