New Zealand's Dubai Expo organisers have given back some MIQ spots allocated because of Auckland's delta outbreak but still plan to have up to 100 entertainers perform at the event.
The contingent of singers, cultural performers and artists are part of the Government's trade push at the six-month event. Besides the likes of six60, Kimbra, Sol3 Mio and Otis Frizzell another 400 business people are part of the official push.
And while not all entertainers have yet to get a spot in managed isolation, hundreds of rooms have been allocated in managed isolation for those Expo participants returning to New Zealand. Since the latest border failure in August hundreds of Covid victims are now in rooms in Auckland usually occupied by returning Kiwis, further stressing a shortage.
Clayton Kimpton, New Zealand's Commissioner-General to Expo 2020 Dubai said the number of rooms needed had fallen from an earlier 401 to 380 over the course of the Expo. That amounted to less than 1 per cent of space over summer.
The allocation of precious MIQ space has attracted fierce criticism from Kiwis stranded overseas and Act leader David Seymour said: ''I wouldn't think that 100 artists taking up places is more important than 100 nurses right now.''
He said he wasn't knocking the performers but it was a question of the Government's priorities.
Kimpton said his organisation had been in near- daily contact with the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) over allocation of MIQ spots and understood concerns that had been raised.
"I work really closely with MBIE since the beginning of this year regarding the MIQ situation and I know it's only got worse but Government has said this is a project of national significance, and they are going to ensure that we have adequate representation of New Zealanders there."
The original budget for New Zealand's participation among 192 countries had been $52m but had risen by $9m because of the year-long delay caused by the pandemic.
''We need to be at Expo 2020 because all of our trading partners are. They're sending their trade ministers their prime ministers and their businesses to this,'' said Kimpton.
''If New Zealand is not there no one's going to ask where we are - they'll just simply deal with another country.''
He rejected claims made by critics the event is a junket.
Many of the entertainers and cultural groups - some of who were based in Dubai and Britain - would fly in and out over a period of days.
''They don't have to do anything the day they arrive but the next day they perform and then they're gone. MIQ has allowed us to be tight because we know the dates, there's no staying around and having a holiday - it's hard work,'' said Kimpton.
Final numbers of performers would depend on MIQ spots - although six60 is flying on as part of a tour of Britain and Europe after playing for a week - and some were trying to make their own arrangements.
They would add an extra dimension to New Zealand's pavilion in a highly competitive environment.
''When NZ businesses are inviting clients back we've got this outstanding entertainment and cultural programme which underpins what they're doing. It's not going to be a boring seminar - a PowerPoint presentation on your product just isn't going to cut it.''
The NZ Trade and Enterprise Expo organisation had a core of five people based in Dubai , backed by diplomatic staff in the region. Representatives who qualified to attend from more than 100 businesses will pay for their own travel and accommodation.
''This is not here for people to have a junket. There has to be something substantive that they're doing.''
Ministers Nanaia Mahuta, Stuart Nash and Damien O'Connor are possible visitors to the event as is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
It was important for business people and politicians to meet face to face, in spite of how far video call technology had come during the pandemic, Kimpton said.
Seymour said he understood the economies of scale for New Zealand businesses to band to together and reach a big global audience but questioned why the Government should be involved at all. With MIQ space at a premium he also said it was unfair for those businesses sanctioned for Expo to have an advantage over others just as deserving which wanted to travel overseas.