On Wednesday this week, events professionals across New Zealand joined with colleagues across the globe highlighting the impacts of Covid19 on the events sector and the need for focused help from governments.
It's a reminder of yet another of our industries that has suffered from the effects of close downs and social distancing with small and large events forced to postpone or cancel in response to public health requirements.
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In normal times, Aucklanders have enjoyed and benefited from a wide range of events. Until Covid19 struck, the city had been looking forward to a bumper schedule of events in 2021 including World Cups and the America's Cup. A number of these events have been disrupted and, in some cases, pushed back into 2022.
Events are the lifeblood of so many businesses – from equipment hire companies to lighting and sound technology suppliers, catering to security, transport to accommodation providers, bars and restaurants, professional sports organisations and teams, broadcasters, promoters and event management companies.
And events also help cities promote themselves as destinations for tourists and as places to live and do business in.
Who can forget the atmosphere in Auckland when the America's Cup was last here? Or the starring role that the city played at the start and end of Rugby World Cup 2011.
Since then, Auckland has hosted hundreds of other events ranging from the NRL Nines to Cricket World Cup semi-finals, world-class tennis tournaments, blockbuster concerts and many fantastic arts and cultural events.
One of the first tasks of the newly merged RFA-ATEED organisation will be to work out how to help our events industry get back on its feet.
Auckland Council, through organisations like ATEED and RFA, provides significant funding to attract and support events. The New Zealand Government also plays a part, assisting events and organisations with funds and other support to attract major international events.
So why do they do it?
Some would say, surely these major events can afford to pay their own way? Maybe. But without some support from Council many of these events will find a home somewhere else. Whether that means other cities in New Zealand or in cities overseas.
And what benefits do ratepayers get for Council chipping in money?
Major events can have an energising effect not only on the national mood but also on the national economy.
That equates to full and part-time jobs for those working in and around the events themselves and money in the pockets of local businesses and their employees. And those are precious right now. We also get to enjoy world-famous talent here in Auckland; we get visitors coming here; we get to share in the economic benefits; and every now and then we get a warm feeling when a New Zealand sporting team does well on the world stage.
As an example the NRL Auckland Nines a few years ago was the most successful two-day event on the Auckland calendar, delivering $9.35m in GDP to the city and resulted in more than 68,000 visitor nights in Auckland. It also drew a significant television audience around the world highlighting Auckland as a fantastic destination.
If we ever needed an example of why everyone benefits from events – it is the emptiness we all felt when sports, music and cultural events were delayed, cancelled, delayed again and sometimes abandoned altogether, as we saw these past six months.
Look at the disappointment generated by the cancellation of the final Blues-Crusaders game as a result of the Auckland lockdown. Or the fallout from SANZAR's decision to move the Rugby Championship tournament to Australia. People are craving events as a way of getting their sense of community and occasion back.
But bringing back events will take more than just goodwill.
The government has been asked to support the industry through helping out companies and individuals to stay afloat; through plans around managing crowds; policies around gatherings that allow us to live with the issues generated by Covid19; and through continuing to support events to come to New Zealand.
As noted at the recent Auckland emergency economic summit, Auckland's role as the country's economic engine means it has to be proactive to get the economy growing again and to create jobs to replace those that have been lost in 2020.
Building a new stadium, as Sir John Key has suggested, would be one way to achieve all those objectives – creating jobs, generating economic opportunities AND attracting world-class events to Auckland.
But with or without a new stadium, Auckland can continue to attract events if RFA-ATEED is allowed to invest in attracting high-impact events; help Auckland businesses create popular local events; and play our part in hosting major international events and maximising the opportunities they create.
That will help our sport, event and entertainment professionals get back on their feet.
It will allow Auckland businesses to benefit from visitors and Aucklanders getting out of their homes.
And it will highlight that Auckland is getting back on its feet.
I'll line up to buy a ticket…..