9 Nov 2021

Government announces insurance scheme for large summer events

7:45 pm on 9 November 2021

The government has pledged to cover 90 percent of unrecoverable costs for major events cancelled or postponed due to Covid-19 this summer.

Government minister Stuart Nash

Government minister Stuart Nash Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

The Events Transition Support Scheme, open from this week, would apply to live, in-person paid events with more than 5000 attendees from 17 December until 3 April 2022.

It would see the government paying out 90 percent of costs for events cancelled that were booked in areas at alert level 2 or higher, the Red traffic light setting or localised lockdown; or because at least 50 percent of ticket-holders were in Red, alert level 3 or lockdown.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash announced the move this morning.

"Events typically only generate revenue on the day or weekend they take place, yet incur significant costs in advance. A quick shift in public health measures could see an event cancelled with no opportunity to recoup costs or generate revenue," he said.

"Organisers of large-scale summer festivals have to make decisions now about whether to proceed as their risk window is closing. There aren't insurance options in the market to cover this so the government is stepping up as a type of underwriter.

Nash told Checkpoint this evening that the government believed festivals were an important part of summer. By offering the scheme, it would be encouraging festival-goers to get vaccinated because they would not be able to attend with proof of vaccination as well as backing promoters.

He was confident an event like Rhythm and Vines would go ahead with 20,000 people able to be entertained.

Asked if the scheme was a way to bypass the possibility that the DHB for the region in which it is being held might not reach the vaccine target, (Tairāwhiti which is at just 69 percent double doses currently), Nash said vaccinators were holding many conversations and travelling to hard to reach areas to complete vaccinations.

He was confident the region would reach the 90 percent rate by the time the event was due to be held.

While up to 200 events might qualify for the scheme which is not limited to only music events, he said the government could not cover every type of event that might be held over summer.

These are regionally significant events that bring a lot of money into a local economy and they play a really important part in the regions within which they're held."

Rhythm & Vines festival founder Hamish Pinkham is welcoming the government's plan to underwrite summer festivals that may face cancellations or postponements due to Covid-19 restrictions.

He told Checkpoint he did not think the Tairāwhiti region will get to the 90 percent vaccination rate in time for the festival.

"It's going to be a huge challenge... We know there's a big meeting and announcement being made at the end of the month... We'll certainly be taking all the advice and direction from government at the time."

He said the possibility the government may alter its vaccination targets for the region allowing the festival to proceed is "the only opportunity we've got".

"So the news today gave us some security... Our teams are ready to go. We're on pause, on hold and we'll be better placed to make a decision about pushing go when a clearer picture is presented."

Act party leader David Seymour said it was disappointing the payment would not cover smaller events or those outside of the timeframe.

"Restricting this major events underwriting to 5000 and up looks like they wanted to save Rhythm and Vines and then gave up.

"[Also] why does it end so early? Warbirds Over Wanaka for example won't be included."

Nash said the timeframe ran from the end of the school year until the end of daylight savings, and the government had to draw the line somewhere.

"The events that we are covering, there's 200-250 of them, are of regional significance."

He said event organisers would not be forced to refund attendees if an event could not go ahead, but was confident most would.

"We're not covering profits or anything, just the fixed costs."

Organisers must be New Zealand-based and the event must require vaccine certificates for entry, and at least half of tickets must have been sold, to be eligible for the scheme.

Local government organisations and events funded by other government sources are not eligible.

Eligibility can be checked on the MBIE website.

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