The $5 billion a year exhibition industry, on its knees due to Covid-19 restrictions, has petitioned the Government for events to have the same opening rights as mega-malls have during level 2 lockdowns.
The petition from 358 of the country's main operators will be tabled in Parliament today after being presented to Act party leader David Seymour.
The sector has been trying since May last year to get the Government to consider separating the exhibition industry from the mass gathering classification by considering a submitted eight-page Covid safety plan, said Darryl Clarke of ShowTV New Zealand, who presented the petition along with Brent Spillane of XPO Exhibitions and David Gibbs of the Hutch Wilco New Zealand Boat Show.
"When we're in level 2 we might as well be in level 4," Clarke said, noting the financial plight of the ASB Showgrounds in Auckland, where a string of events have had to be cancelled in level 2 while the country's biggest shopping malls have been allowed to open with no mandatory tracing at the same level.
These malls have many points of unregulated entry and exit and rely entirely on voluntary scanning by shoppers, whereas a major event is ticketed with compulsory scanning and so tracing is completely covered, he said.
The sector's eight-page safety plan was written by health and safety experts.
Clarke, whose business is an exhibitor at 100 consumer shows a year, said one event cancelled in Auckland meant up to 3000 hotel nights lost to the economy.
On his own bat, he had written to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in May last year, to Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, to the Ministry of Health and to Opposition MPs.
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"We're not asking for handout. We've done our own research and our own safety plan. The hard work and research to achieve this has already been done by business leaders within our industry. The Government now need only wander up and take this silver platter of research and protocol and implement it."
A spokesman for Seymour said the petition would be tabled in Parliament today, where it would be referred to the petitions select committee. This is a recently created committee, replacing a system where the destination of petitions was decided by House clerks.
The change sought by the events sector could be implemented by a minor amendment to law through statute amendment law or through special Covid legislation.