24 Jan 2022

Blow for businesses as Warbirds over Wanaka called off again

1:59 pm on 24 January 2022

Warbirds over Wanaka International Airshow has been cancelled for the second time in two years following the shift to the red traffic light setting.

A yak3 at the Warbirds Over Wanaka show.

A yak3 at the Warbirds Over Wanaka show. Photo: Twitter / Paul Stewart

Organisers announced the decision this morning.

The event traditionally attracts more than 50,000 people over three days and injects roughly $40 million into the regional economy.

It is one of a raft of events that have been cancelled today after the move to the red traffic light system was announced by the government yesterday.

Events that will not go ahead include: the Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival (4 and 5 February); the Auckland International Buskers Festival (28-31 January); and the Auckland Pride Festival (1-27 February) although a small number of events will go ahead either in person or online. Wicked the Musical, which was due to open in Auckland on 4 February and run for a month, has also been cancelled.

Under the red traffic light setting, there is a 100-person limit for public events based on one metre physical distancing for indoor and outdoor venues while using a vaccine pass.

The Warbirds over Wanaka event's community trust chairman, John Gilks, said the board was left with no choice but to cancel.

"The government has indicated that the country will remain in red for weeks so we cannot continue to plan for an airshow," he said.

"The health and safety of the amazing team which delivers Warbirds Over Wanaka and all our visitors is paramount."

Gilks said the decision started to feel inevitable weeks ago when the government indicated the country would go into red when there was an Omicron outbreak in the community.

"We know this will be a huge blow for all those people who have worked hard to pull this event together, especially following on from the disappointment of being one of the first major events in New Zealand to cancel because of Covid back in March 2020.

"It is also going to be upsetting for the thousands of people who have already bought tickets and were looking forward to the enjoyment our event brings so many."

Warbirds over Wanaka is run by a small management team backed up by hundreds of aircraft owners, pilots, volunteers, contractors, suppliers and exhibitors alongside sponsors.

Gilks said it was extremely disappointing for many businesses around the region.

"We know they were upset when we cancelled back in 2020 and they were looking to our event this Easter as a major financial boost given the tough times they have faced over the past almost two years."

He hoped the decision to cancel immediately after the shift to the red light gave many businesses more time to make alternative plans to recover the business lost due to the cancellation.

This year's airshow was meant to be a major part of the Royal New Zealand Air Force's 85th Anniversary celebrations with at least two international air forces expected to join the festivities.

The next Warbirds Over Wanaka International Airshow is planned for Easter 2024.

Ticketek will contact ticket holders in the near future to organise a full refund.

Other major events canned

Auckland's season of Wicked the Musical has been cancelled after four years of work to bring it to the stage.

North Shore Music Theatre said the heartbreaking decision was made as the show was opening next week through February.

"This production has been in the making for the last four years, and we were so excited to finally see it come to life at the SkyCity Theatre, but unfortunately the latest outbreak of Omicron cases just doesn't make that possible.

"Huge thanks must go to our incredible creative team, cast, crew, sponsors, and everyone else who has been working so diligently towards bringing Wicked to life - we are so grateful for all of your hard work, and are so sorry that your talents won't be seen by Auckland audiences next month."

The Auckland International Buskers Festival has also been cancelled due to the move to red.

The four-day event was due to kick off this Friday and festival organiser Pam Glaser said they had hoped this would be their best festival but safety and wellbeing of spectators and performers is the priority.

Auckland Pride has cancelled its festival, but a small number of events will still take place either in person or online.

Organisers said the decision was not made lightly but they want to keep Tāmaki Makaurau's rainbow communities safe.

They said questions regarding refunds, postponement, and ticketing should be directed towards each event organiser.

The Pride Gala would be postponed, and tickets would be valid for the postponement date to be announced.

The Dunedin Craft Beer and Food Festival has been cancelled. It was scheduled for 4 -5 February after two prior date shifts.

Festival director Jason Schroeder said it was a devastating decision but there was no other option.

All ticket holders will be contacted with refund information.

Planning continues for the October 2022 festival.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs