There’s never a good time to get a lockdown, but this recent curtailment of hatches has hit Wellington’s economy hard, delaying or enforcing the cancellation of major events like the World of WearableArt, Wellington on a Plate and two All Blacks friendly matches.
Well, with no way of knowing when major events will be able to happen again – some entertainment and events industry leaders think it is unlikely before Christmas.
The cabinet is due to meet on Monday to assess the Covid-19 risk in the country south of Auckland, which has been on alert level 3 since Wednesday. With only a few cases in Wellington last week – all known contacts of existing cases – and none in the rest of the Zone 3 zone, expectations are high that the cabinet will signal further easing of restrictions.
But entertainment and event organizers across the country are preparing for a longer period in Level 2, which can be months.
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“People plan the worst and hope for the best,” said Sally-Anne Coates, general manager of the Entertainment Venues Association of New Zealand. “You have to be realistic. People are very careful. “
The association has made a proposal to the Ministry of Health calling for large venues to have a percentage capacity cap below level 2, rather than the existing cap of 100 people. This would mean that some venues could still operate in Level 2.
Hamish Pinkham, director of the Rhythm and Vines Music Festival, said he was still planning three days for his Gisborne festival in late December, but had to make a decision by the end of October.
“We won’t hold the festival until we’re back to level one. At the moment it’s running at full steam, ”he said. “It’s hard to say whether level 2 will last until the new year. We just have to take as it comes every day. It’s difficult to predict. “
While signs suggested the outbreak was being brought under control, it was too early to predict what would happen for the rest of the year, said Dr. Siouxsie Wiles, Associate Professor and Microbiologist at Auckland University.
“We’re still in the early stages of the response, so the case numbers are going down, but we need to see these continue to drop and have a full understanding of where the transmission is happening,” said Wiles.
While there is still an active transfer of cases in Auckland, it is safer to keep the rest of New Zealand on alert level 2, she said. “It depends on whether we can stop transmission chains.”
A longer period below alert level 2 would have a significant impact on the capital region.
The World of WearableArt (WOW), which was worth about $ 28 million to Wellington’s economy in 2020, should be in the community on 30-19.
Wellington City Council has reached an agreement to fund the event – in exchange for keeping the high profile event in town for the next five years – so the cancellation will directly hurt the city’s coffers.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure WOW can happen,” said Wellington Mayor Andy Foster. Talks are already underway between the central government and the events industry to see how events at levels 1 and 2 could run, he said.
The Wellington on a Plate Food Festival, which typically pumps nearly $ 6 million into the local economy over three weeks, was already underway when the capital was locked but is set to resume at Level 2. However, this will be with restrictions on restaurants and bars until the region returns to level 1.
Further events are planned for the second half of October in the TSB Arena: the Synthony Show on October 22nd and a Trans-Tasman basketball game on October 24th. For the time being, both stuck to their booked appointments.
Trying to plan in the moment was like “crystal ball gazing,” said Warrick Dent, general manager of WellingtonNZ Events and Experiences.
“Warning level 2 restrictions mean that no more than 100 people can gather for an event,” said Dent. “This severely limits the running of events of any size, and since almost all of the events we host in the venues we manage are intended for audiences greater than 100, it means we will not have any events back in our venues will have until Wellington reaches alert level 1. ”
But even if they are postponed, people could stay cautious.
Victoria University psychology professor Marc Wilson said sudden changes in alert levels and fear of risks surrounding Covid made people more reluctant to engage in big events or big issues.
“We generally don’t like uncertainty,” he said, adding that we know from experience that changes in alert levels can only be short-lived.
“So we’re very shy about signing up for something that may be canceled – both because of the potential concern of losing our money and the disappointment of losing something we expected,” said Wilson. “If we don’t look forward to something, we don’t have this disappointment.”
While the impact on the entertainment and hospitality sectors is significant, the overall capital economy would remain in relatively resilient shape, not least thanks to the dominance of the public sector.
“These events add to the cultural life and atmosphere of the place, but there is an error rate in the measured economy,” said economist Shamubeel Eaqub.
“The context is everything,” he said. “Wellington’s GDP is $ 40 billion. Events like WOW on Optimistic Estimates add less than $ 30 million. It’s obviously important to some sectors like taxi services and hospitality, but you can’t really see it in the big picture of the economy. “