The Tauranga Arts Festival has become another "Covid casualty" with organisers making the "heartbreaking" decision to cancel its 10-day extravaganza usually hosting 50,000 people.
While the Government is responding to the current Delta variant outbreak, summer event organisers are nervously planning for the months which usually give a local economic boost of $50 million to $70m.
It was festival artistic director Gabrielle Vincent's first time as director, devoting 20 hours a week since October last year alongside teams and artists who put countless hours into getting the festival ready.
The arts festival ran on every odd year, and Escape! ran on every even year since 2014.
Vincent said the team had been planning for a range of scenarios since lockdown in August.
Auckland's extended lockdown severely impacted the rehearsal and preparation time for many theatre shows and shortened the marketing and promotion period.
Restrictions also meant performances wouldn't be able to get decent audiences.
The board decided that, financially, cancelling the 10-day event was the best option.
Vincent said despite the artists knowing this might happen, it was difficult to break the news with them.
Festival staff were still working through the cancellation with funders and sponsors and tickets would be fully refunded.
Fears were mounting for the future of the growing number of small businesses in debt and the uncertainty for the events and hospitality sectors at the mercy of Covid restrictions.
From December last year to February, there was a total spend of $670,329,735 in Tauranga, the highest it had been since 2015, according to Priority One figures.
Chief executive Nigel Tutt said this equated to an economic boost of between $50m and $70m for Tauranga, with last summer particularly good in the domestic tourism hotspot.
But the uncertainty around Covid levels and physical distancing requirements have heightened the organisation's concerns for the events and hospitality sectors.
Tutt said many smaller events, as well as the large ones such as Bay Dreams and One Love, collectively provided a "significant impact".
The events meant there were significant flow-on effects to local hospitality and accommodation providers.
"Events organisers will be making arrangements and bookings at this time of year, Covid restrictions add a lot of risk and uncertainty for them."
He said locals could help by supporting events - big and small - where they could.
With just 1000 tickets left to sell out One Love, it's been the best sales in the history of the annual two-day reggae festival planned for January 29 and 30 at Tauranga Domain.
The festival annually attracts 20,000 people.
Festival director Glenn Meikle, of Reggae Love Ltd, said with the uncertainty of Covid, planning was going ahead as normal.
"There's a lot of costs coming up to an event, so you really have to make a decision a couple of weeks out."
He said this was why events may be starting to cancel or postpone.
If they were not able to run the festival, he said a postponement would be their first option, and "worst-case scenario" would be the following year.
Meikle said even if it was postponed, they would be out of pocket for the year.
He said it was lucky that the majority of the acts were Aotearoa talent, and just a few were international which would be affected if the borders were shut.
"Things change day-to-day and you have to just weigh up to your options ... we'll just have to see at the time."
He said the team had not had any discussions on only allowing people to enter who had been vaccinated, and was unsure what the Government would decide.
Meikle also owns local bar The Rising Tide and Mount Brewing Co brewery.
"I actually missed out on a lot of business last year with some outbreaks which cost our business a lot of money.
"It's hard ... The industry is really suffering and this summer is really important."
For The Rising Tide, he said it was basically a summer business.
"In winter, you're working on summer ideas. We probably spend all of our winter working for that summer.
"But you've just got to be positive ... if there was a major outbreak our systems wouldn't cope, we have to make sure our people are safe first.
"There's going to be many more summers down the track."
Bay Dreams was another large annual music festival set for January 3 at Trustpower Baypark which hosted 20,000 party-goers, a drop on the 30,000 it had in the three years prior.
For the music lovers, a new event, Summer Haze, was announced by the internationally renowned group Shapeshifter, who are one of the headliners alongside Fat Freddy's Drop, Scribe, P-Money, Ladi 6, Katchafire, Lee Mvtthews and Rubi Du.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said events of all sizes played a big part in the economic recovery and morale of the community.
The economy was like a balanced diet, he said.
"If the primary sector is the protein giving you strength, events are like a sugar hit that gives an instant impact."
He said events benefited a wide range of sectors instantly, and the biggest risks amidst the uncertainty were smaller events.
Smaller events are the "fabric of our community and give locals a variety of choices".
He said the bigger events usually had substantial financial backing.
He said there's a risk of suppliers and skills, like sound engineers, being lost to other more stable jobs.
The number of small local businesses, such as eateries, accommodation, and attractions that were in debt was growing, he said, as owners struggled to pay their bills and keep their staff during lockdown.
This meant autumn and spring events and tourists were especially important.
A T20 Black Clash of rugby against cricket is scheduled to be hosted at Mount Maunganui's Bay Oval on January 22 for its fourth annual match.
Bay Oval manager Kelvin Jones said they were planning as though everything was going ahead with crowds.
He said they would follow all of the health guidelines and it was too early to know what might be required, given the speed at alert level and restriction changes.
Whether or not people without a vaccine would be allowed into the games would depend on what those using the venue decided.
"We're a business and we need the revenue."
The fallout of something like the cricket not happening had significant flow-on effects, he said, with the hundreds of staff and contractors like the bars, food vendors, and NZ Cricket.
"We feel an obligation to them."
He said while everyone's health was more important, events boosted morale - giving people something to look forward to, enjoy, and "take your mind off of what's happening in the world".
Tauranga City Council manager city events Nelita Byrne said the council was working with organisers to help with the many boxes that needed to be ticked, through a Covid-lens, for events to run this summer.
She said it was also helping those who recently had to cancel events with postponement options.
She said organisers had to provide plans which outlined risk management and Covid-19 planning.
"The event calendar for the coming summer is looking fantastic and we really hope that these events can go ahead."
Events allowed people from all walks of life to come together, she said, with options to take part or volunteer.
Community involvement also provided social, cultural, and economic development throughout Tauranga Moana, she said.