One of the Far North's most anticipated annual sporting events is seeking a new major sponsor following the withdrawal of its naming sponsor last Friday.
The Ngai Takoto 90 Mile Beach Snapper Bonanza is arguably the world's largest snapper surf casting competition, drawing thousands of people from around the country each year.
The five-day, one-species fishing event runs each March on the famous Te Oneroa-a-Tōhē (90 Mile Beach), with tickets typically selling out within hours of being released.
The original competition, Snapper Classic, started in 1982 and in 2011 David Collard and John Stewart took over the reins, transforming it into the event we know today.
Ngai Takoto iwi own the land on which the event is run, with Te Runanga o Ngai Takoto supporting the event as the major naming sponsor for the past three years.
Citing the impact of this year's Covid-19 lockdowns, the runanga announced last week it would need to withdraw its ongoing sponsorship, effective immediately.
David Collard said while next year's event would still go ahead, the lack of a major sponsor would have an impact on any future planning.
"My initial reaction was one of concern because without our sponsors, this event will fail to continue to exist," Collard said.
"We'll be okay to hold the event in 2022, but we definitely need to find a replacement if we want to keep going.
"This event has a huge impact on the local economy each year, with around 3000 people per day attending the event.
"It also means money for our local accommodation, supermarkets and pharmacies, as well as local restaurants, pubs and cafes, petrol stations and more."
Collard said the event just managed to escape the impact of last year's Covid-19 lockdown, which gave away $78,000 in cash prizes for fish and $135,000 in spot prizes.
He said if anything, interest in the event had skyrocketed due to more people taking up the sport and not being able to travel abroad.
"The ideal outcome for us is to find someone who can contribute in the same capacity Ngai Takoto has," Collard said.
"The sooner the better in terms of organising merchandising and signage, as well as the longer the lead time to push their name on social media and to provide the kudos they deserve.
"Because we only sell 1000 tickets per year, there has been talk about selling extra tickets because of our extensive waiting list, so that's one avenue we could pursue.
"The ongoing viability of the competition in its size is the best thing we've got going though, so I'm inclined to want to continue to keep it running the way it is."
Te Runanga o Ngai Takoto co-chairman Wallace Rivers said the recent lockdown events had forced the organisation to refocus and to ensure the sustainability across all structures of the organisation.
"The current conditions have regrettably forced us into a decision to pull away from ongoing sponsorship of the Snapper Bonanza," Rivers said.
"The key point I want to make is that we've had to refocus our priorities due to the impact of the Covid-19 Delta strain on us and the rest of the country.
"It's got nothing to do with money and is more about us needing to redirect our efforts, which is no different to any other responsible organisation around the world.
"The level 4 lockdown has had a huge impact on us, particularly on our tourism structures, which has a flow-on impact on our people, our marae and their organisations."
Rivers said while the runanga had felt the impact of last year's lockdown, this second round of lockdowns had meant they had to rethink their responsibilities.
He said despite their financial withdrawal, however, the runanga was still committed to providing the land to host the event.
"The event agreement to use the site still stands and Ngai Takoto is more than happy to allow the Snapper Bonanza to utilise the whenua as our contribution to the event."
According to a statement from the Ministry of Social Development earlier this week, Northlanders spending money on tourism was the key to an economic bounce-back in the region as Covid-19 alert levels dropped.
Co-chairman of the Economic Recovery Leadership Group (ERLG), Murray Reade, said while Auckland was the greater contributor to tourism revenue in the region, that spend would take time and further alert level drops to return.
"Our way through Covid-19 has to be to encourage economic activity by Northlanders who have the relative freedom of living, working and recreating in alert level 2," Reade said.
"The annual spend on tourism in Northland is $566 million with around $161 million of that being spent by Northlanders travelling in the region.
"Obviously, the sooner that Auckland gets to alert level 1 the better, but we shouldn't underestimate the positive impact of Northlanders spending at home in alert level 2."
ERLG co-chair and NorthTec CEO, Toa Faneva, said experience showed a bounce back in economic activity would come as the region moved down alert levels.
"This is what we saw with the first lockdown where the bounce back was the equivalent of 75 per cent of the activity lost through the lockdown," Faneva said.
"We have to wait to see how big the bounce back from this lockdown will be for the Northland economy, but in the meantime, businesses and the economy will continue to be bolstered through MSD support, principally through the Wage Subsidy August 2021."
The 2022 90 Mile Beach Snapper Bonanza Surf Casting Competition is scheduled to be held on March 16-20.
For more information about the competition, visit: www.snapperbonanza.co.nz.