The worst fears of Mission Concert loyals have been realised with organisers conceding it has become mission impossible to get an act for a concert early in the new year.
Held every year since 1993 - except for Lionel Ritchie's rained-out gig in 2009 - there'll be no Mission Concert this summer, organisers said yesterday. They promise, however, it's not over forever.
Worries emerged last February when the Ronan Keating-headlined Irish and British Invasion package attracted a crowd less than half the size of the peak of more than 25,000 in 2012 for the world's biggest winery concert, the second Mission Concert of Scottish crooner Rod Stewart.
After this year's concert, the 22nd since operatic diva Dame Kiri Te Kanawa introduced the Mission to concert-goers in 1993, Mission Estate Winery chief executive Peter Holley told Hawke's Bay Today at the time: "I don't know if there are a lot of answers." The doubts remained back at the winery yesterday as promoters Sports Entertainment Ltd revealed the search for a suitable act for this summer had been unsuccessful and the concert was off.
Both SEL and the winery hope there may still be a concert later in the year, or they will skip 2015 and bounce back early in 2016, although SEL chairman James Erskine and Mr Holley said they were looking for any ideas to keep the trailblazing concert going.
"It's a hiatus only," Mr Erskine said.
"There will be a 23rd Mission Concert announced in the future and the tradition will continue."
The concerts had attracted some of the greatest names in entertainment, Mr Erskine said, but added: "In more recent years it has become increasingly difficult to attract world-class artists who meet the summer concert's key drivers - affordable ticket prices, North Island exclusivity and a mid-summer timeframe."
Problems promoters had meeting the objectives had been compounded by the availability of the stars, performing and tour schedules, and the extra time needed to get the performers to Hawke's Bay.
The Mission Concert has faced increasing commercial competition from other concerts and sports events, highlighted when on the same day as last February's concert there was a sell-out for Kiwi performers Sol3 Mio and Dame Malvina Major at Black Barn Winery, Havelock North.
A busy summer on the concert scene throughout the summer features the Rolling Stones in Auckland later this month. The organisers were disappointed for the sake of businesses and fundraising organisations who had come to rely on the mission for their share of the multi-million dollar annual spin-off for the Hawke's Bay community.
But Mr Erskine said some of that could be offset by other events, including three Cricket World Cup matches in Napier in early March.
The accommodation industry will be hit, having been repeatedly booked out during a Mission Concert weekend.
Napier hotel operator Rodney Green wondered if problems weren't also compounded by liquor licensing, which means fans were not permitted to take liquor to the concert, and consume only that sold in the sloped arena off Church Rd, Taradale.
"It is disappointing for the whole of Hawke's Bay." Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said the "postponement", as it was billed by organisers, was a disappointment but the months of January-April were getting busier and busier each year, with Art Deco Weekend in Napier particularly big in February.
"We were always hopeful there would be a concert," she said.
"They've made a brave decision, in that it (the concerts) has been based on having a great artist, and they haven't been able to get one this time."
Napier CBD menswear retailer Denis Jeffery has missed only two of the Mission concerts. - Dame Kiri in the opening year and the second Rod Stewart night-out, and said: "Maybe if they give it a rest for a year there will be more momentum It would be sad to see it go."