Shift to Red hits event sector hard with numerous cancellations

Source: 1News

New Zealand’s shift to the Red traffic light setting has had a devastating impact on the arts and events industry, with most major events scheduled for February and March cancelled, or postponed.

While a number of events are working through contingency plans, the flow-on effects are proving difficult for a sector that's now in its third year of uncertainty due to Covid-19.

The list of cancellations continues to grow, and so far includes big names such as Splore, New Zealand Fashion Week, Warbirds over Wānaka, Wellington’s Lunar New Year Festival, and the Auckland Buskers Festival.

Auckland's Lantern Festival has also been cancelled due to Covid restrictions, for the third year in a row.

It was due to take place at Auckland Showgrounds on February 10-13.

Ticketed events of more than 5000 can claim up to 90 per cent of non-recoverable costs, under the Events Transition Support Payment scheme.

Smaller events in the arts sector are also able to get support of up to $300,000 under the Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme.

Both schemes only include events until April 3 2022, and neither covers smaller events in the sports, business or food and wine sectors. The wage subsidy has also ended.

Wicked is an Auckland stage show that has been four years in the making, and is now unlikely to ever see the light of day there.

With audience limits capped at a 100 due to the traffic light setting, it's not financially viable for the show to go on in Red.

Director Alexandra McKellar says they have also lost any form of financial compensation without the wage subsidy.

“We just don't know what's going to happen for the arts and events industry, so at the moment to put any plans into concrete it's just a bit too scary,” McKellar said.

It’s the third time Covid restrictions have had an impact on the show.

“Devastated, we are all so heartbroken. I'm trying not to cry ... it's really hard,” said one Wicked actor.

Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Carmel Sepuloni will be meeting with ministry officials this week to get advice on how support currently in place is helping during this period.

“We’ll traverse the issues the sector may be facing at this meeting,” she said in a statement on Monday.

Sepuloni last week acknowledged the “huge financial and emotional strain” the effects of Covid were having on the industry.

She encouraged those in the sector requiring assistance to access all the Government supports that are available, including the Arts and Culture Event Support Scheme and Events Transition Support Scheme.

Wedding planning complications

Meanwhile, couples up and down the country have found themselves in the unenviable position of slashing guest lists, with reduced limits now applicable to weddings under the Red traffic light setting.

In Red, weddings can go ahead. If vaccine passes are used 100 people can attend, and if they're not, the limit is capped at 25.

Charlotte Isaac is getting married on Friday, and has had to make some cuts.

“There were groups of people who we were like they'll understand if we uninvite them as a group, like my work straight away that was a group of people, that's ten people.

She says a lot of people also started uninviting themselves, due to Covid uncertainty and wanting to protect themselves.

“It was a combination of eliminating a few groups of people, people uninviting themselves and then it got really hard, and it got down to the wire.

“I hope they'll understand. People by and large sent really lovely messages .. it did feel really heartbreaking and like we were hurting lots of people's feelings.”