Tauranga's biggest calendar sporting event, which pumped $6.3 million into the local economy last year, has been shelved but organisers vow it will return stronger than ever in 2021.
Aims Games tournament director Vicki Semple said it was the hardest decision the trustees have had to make but the Covid-19 pandemic had made hosting the tournament untenable.
"The stark reality is we just couldn't confidently host more than 11,000 athletes in September while upholding the high standards of wellbeing.
"And this pandemic is so much bigger than sport - not only have we had to weigh up things like training and preparation lead-ins for athletes but we've considered the likely economic impact on families and how prepared they are to send their kids away for a week with uncertainty hanging over them."
Registrations numbers were already down and Semple said schools had indicated cost and limited support would prevent them from attending this year.
There was no other option, said Aims Games Trust chairman and Otumoetai Intermediate principal Henk Popping.
"We didn't have a choice due to the pandemic and the health and safety risks associated with bringing large numbers of people into Tauranga.
"The advice from health authorities is they couldn't guarantee that New Zealand would be immune from a second wave of infection, so it's about minimising risk to the Tauranga community as well."
About 350 students attend the games from his own school each year, so Popping knew many students across the country would be disappointed.
But, he said, it was now up to schools to ensure the students engage in an active lifestyle.
'Greatest shock in living memory': Bay could lose 14,550 jobs
AIMS Games in doubt as crisis hits events and entertainment scene hard
Tauranga Intermediate principal Cameron Mitchell agreed with Popping that many students would be disappointed but it was not the end of sporting competitions.
"It is important to note that first and foremost our community sport will be up and running and our students will be able to enjoy the games that they love."
A report released in December revealed 23,775 people attended Aims Games last year - 84.5 per cent from outside Tauranga. The event contributed 74,787 visitor nights to the region and injected $6,342,417 into the economy.
About 11,500 intermediate-aged athletes from schools around New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Fiji compete in 23 sporting codes over six days in September.
Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristin Dunne said the loss of the games would be felt deeply by the Bay's tourism industry - but she supported the decision.
"The impact on our local economy is substantial with huge flow-on effects on accommodation, hospitality, retail and tourism activities."
Dunne said the economic contribution was significant, especially during what would otherwise be a shoulder-season month for tourism, however, she understood Semple did "all she could" to assess whether the event could go ahead safely.
Hospitality Association regional manager Alan Sciascia said the Aims Games were important for the region, including accommodation providers, restaurants and cafes.
He said it was a ''sad loss to the region''.
The association's Bay of Plenty accommodation sector chairman and 850 Cameron Motel owner Tony Bullot said the games was the busiest time of the year and it would be a big blow.
His motel, like others in the city, was booked out during the event but he said no one was banking on it going ahead. He felt for the organisers having to make the tough decision.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley it was devastating for local businesses who look forward to the event each year.
"The event books out nearly every spare bed throughout the Western Bay and surrounding areas."
The organisation did a "wonderful job" at managing the measles outbreak last year, Cowley said, but he understood the challenges of running the event during Covid-19.
Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell said the city loved hosting the games but there were just too many complicating factors.
"The Aims Games brings quite extraordinary cultural, sporting and economic value to the Tauranga community and we not only look forward to welcoming it back in 2021 but also building on the phenomenal success of past years' events."
The next Aims Games will be from Saturday, September 4 to Friday, September 10, 2021.
• Additional reporting Carmen Hall