Whanganui District Council has agreed to underwrite the Whanganui (NZ) Masters Games Trust to the tune of $500,000 if next year's event has to be cancelled because of Covid-19.
Games trustees told the council's Tuesday meeting the event was in a strong financial position and they only wanted the council to provide some assurance if pandemic restrictions caused a last-minute cancellation.
Trustee Mike Cronin said the Masters brought economic, social and reputational benefits to Whanganui, with about $500,000 of the event's running costs going back to the community in payments to local suppliers and staff, and $133,000 paid to local sports clubs that run events.
Cronin estimated visitor spending of around $3 million during the Games directly benefits Whanganui's hospitality, retail and tourism sectors.
"Planning, registrations, general excitement and interest in the event have exceeded expectations and, based on current registrations, the forecast bottom line is tracking to a break-even scenario, which would put the trust in a better position than in 2019 - but we have to take the risk of a resurfacing of Covid-19 seriously."
The 2019 Games in Whanganui had a 3.2 per cent drop in participants and loss around $20,000.
Cronin said in a worst-case scenario, a rapid change in alert levels halting the opening of the games could leave the trust with a deficit and trustees felt it would be irresponsible to proceed with an event that would leave the trust and community in that position.
Games manager Rachel O'Connor said the risk of cancellation because of Covid-19 was perceived to be "very low".
"We have had incredible support from sponsors, funders and the community. Registrations are also well on track, so we are looking forward to a highly successful and popular event in 2021 - but we cannot insure against Covid-19."
The council agreed to the request, up to $500,000, and council chief executive Kym Fell will join the trust as an observer.
Mayor Hamish McDouall said it was important to acknowledge that Covid-19 may still pose a threat to the Games going ahead.
"The trust has worked hard to mitigate any risk of cancellation, but there is a chance that Covid-19 could re-emerge."
The council owns 49 per cent of the New Zealand Masters Games Company. The remaining 51 per cent is owned by the Whanganui (NZ) Masters Games Trust, a charitable trust made up of volunteers.