Leaders in the Tauranga and Hamilton performing arts sectors are looking to fill the void left by the departing Stage Challenge and J Rock events.

Baycourt Community Arts Centre manager Megan Peacock Coyle and Clarence Street Theatre general manager Jason Wade are exploring the possibility of creating their own local competition after the Stage Challenge Foundation announced it was canning this year's events for financial reasons.

Read more: Stage Challenge cancellation could provide opportunities, says Mount Maunganui drama teacher
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Peacock Coyle said the proposed new competition would not be called Stage Challenge due to trademark restrictions but would retain the same kaupapa (policy) and spirit of the much-loved annual event.


She said the proposed event would be similar in format to the cancelled competition and altered to better suit schools, teachers and students, as well as any changes to the curriculum.

"When I learned the Stage Challenge Foundation had cancelled the competition because they could not keep up with operational costs, I just felt devastated for the young people in the Bay of Plenty, and across New Zealand," Peacock Coyle said.

"For kids who love the performing arts, Stage Challenge was more than just a competition. It was their opportunity to share their talents, make their voices heard, and for some, their only moment to stand out from the crowd and shine brightly on the stage."

It was hoped the heats could be held in June and July, and finals later in the year. The event could potentially be delivered nationally.

Wade said the performing arts were "completely under-valued" and it was important to support any opportunity to promote music, dance and drama.

"These events give young people a unique voice to tell their story and present them in a way that is relevant to them and not what they've been told to do."

Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless said: "I think it is great for youth to get involved in. It is a change from people communicating by electronic means. It is meeting real people and entertaining the public."

Cara Hight was "gutted" to hear the iconic event had been cancelled. Her daughter Ella Hight, 14, had competed in Stage Challenge the last three years.

"For someone like Ella, who isn't sporty, Stage Challenge is such a cool event," Cara said.

"It is a great opportunity for them to excel in dance and drama."

Cara said the introduction of a new Waikato/Bay of Plenty competition replacement was a great idea.

Ella had been dancing since she was 4 at Mount Maunganui Dance Academy and enjoyed showcasing her talents on a national stage.

She was upset when she found out Stage Challenge was no longer, but was pleased to hear there were talks of a replacement.

Otumoetai College head teacher of Stage Challenge Jane Harnett said she was shocked to hear the event had been canned but she "saw it coming".

"It used to be so big it was televised... I am hugely disappointed New Zealand can't make it happen for us. It is iconic, it's been 25 years," Harnett said.

"There is a huge heartfelt grief out there from students who did it."

Rebecca Brake from The Lakes Performing Arts Company in Rotorua had also volunteered to run a similar programme to help save Stage Challenge.