New Zealand’s sudden lockdown leaves events in limbo

Spore Festival is one of the events waiting for further clarification from health officials.

Auckland’s swift move into a lockdown following a cluster of Covid cases emerging over the weekend has put the city’s event calendar on notice.

Sound Valley Festival is one of the events that is waiting for further clarification ahead of next weekend.

Sound Valley Festival director Gioia Damosso told Newshub she is optimistic the event will go ahead as planned.

“We always knew this was a risk but we were feeling quite confident off the back of a fantastic summer of being able to have all these wonderful events. For now, it’s about staying positive. It’s out of our hands but we’re hoping for the best,” she said.

“People tend to think it’s the event managers and artists who are affected but there are so many others who rely on work in this industry to feed their families. Last year alone, so many of these people took such a huge hit, and it was finally starting pick back up.”

Splore Festival is also hanging in the balance, with director John Minty telling Newshub the lockdown came as “a bit of a shock”.

“It’s something we’ve been preparing for for months, I’ve been literally looking at the health records every day for the past few months and we thought we’re getting close, so it was looking good, but we were prepared for a potential outbreak to happen,” he said.

“At this stage, we’re planning on Splore happening, February 26 – 28, but the reality is by Wednesday or Thursday if we’re still in level 3 or level 2 potentially, we will then make a decision as to potential postponement date.”

However, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has been forced to defend the decision to allow major events to operate on the same day Prime Minister Jacinda Arden announced the alert Level 3.

The Big Gay Out festival saw thousands of attendees on Sunday, while sailing’s Prada Cup final also saw big crowds.

“[Director-General of Health] Ashley Bloomfield said at this point the events should go ahead,” Goff said.

“The organiser of Big Gay Out was informed separately by health authorities of the situation, but he [the organiser] was not advised, as I was not advised, the event should be closed down.”

“That was the advice the experts and the health authorities had given and I never try to second-guess the experts in this field.”

The alert level 2 restrictions for the rest of the country also mean gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited, with Napier’s Art Deco Festival cancelling events due to be held on Thursday.

But a decision on whether to cancel the remainder of the festival will be made later today.

“We need to give event organisers, caterers, venues and suppliers the certainty to go ahead with all the logistics for nearly 300 individual events,” Art Deco Trust chair Barbara Arnott told the NZ Herald.

“This includes everything from catering, putting up marquees, installing sound and lighting, and putting in place everything else required in each event location. Many of the talented people who perform at festival events need to travel to get here too.”