Hawke’s Bay is already looking towards the possibility of scrapping many of its major events in the uncertainty of the latest Covid-19 lockdown now set to enter a second week.
Even before today’s late-afternoon announcement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that a lockdown remains in place nationwide at least till midnight Friday and in Auckland at least until midnight Tuesday – Hawke’s Bay Rugby chief executive Jay Campbell said it would be “dreaming” to think that the Magpies’ defence of the Ranfurly Shield against Waikato could go ahead at McLean Park in Napier on Saturday.
Earlier, Napier City Council events manager and New Zealand Events Association deputy chairman Kevin Murphy said events organisers would be looking at their plans for events not just in the next week but as far ahead as into next year.
There were still no cases identified in Hawke’s Bay as the region enters the busy September and October events and tourism programme, including such annuals as the Home and Garden Show scheduled for September 3-5, the Hastings Blossom Festival (September 11), the three days of the Hawke’s Bay Spring Carnival racing (September 11, October 2, October 16) and the Hawke’s Bay Show (October 20-22).
Campbell remains hopeful that despite the latest announcement, effectively cancelling all sports and other events nationwide for a second weekend in a row, a full Bunnings Warehouse NPC, Farah Palmer Cup women’s competition and Ranfurly Shield programme can still be held this year.
Already postponed had been the Magpies’ away game against Canterbury, which had been scheduled for last Saturday and is now tentatively programme for the weekend of October 15-17, and New Zealand Rugby was, within minutes of the PM’s announcement today in Wellington, conferencing with provincial rugby bosses to discuss the ramifications.
A major blow to the hospitality industry came late last Friday when confirmation of a lockdown extension throughout the country, to match the seven days of confinement in the Auckland area, led to the cancellation of next week’s high schools winter tournament week, which would have involved more than 30,000 students nationwide.
More than 100 visiting teams would have come to Hawke’s Bay, including 62 for a Lower North Island netball tournament, 32 in a boys’ football tournament and the premier girls Federation Cup and Marie Fry Trophy hockey tournament, also with 32 teams – between them estimated to be more than 2000 players, management and officials. Also scheduled for Hawke’s Bay was a national schools golf croquet tournament at the end of next week.
Police on Monday in Havelock Rd, between Hastings and Havelock North, checking for possible Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown breaches. Photo / Warren Buckland
For such people as hockey tournament organiser Michelle Francis, the disappointment of canning a week planned and eagerly anticipated by all taking part was huge, while for rugby’s Campbell and Hawke’s Bay Racing counterpart Darin Balcombe it’s matter of accepting what’s happening, waiting to see what happens, and planning for events that may or may not happen.
Campbell said the first concerns are for safety and wellbeing, but for “a whole lot of reasons rugby needs to happen” at some stage, which includes being a part of stressed communities “feeling good about themselves”.
Racing’s Spring Carnival was delayed because of the Covid-19 crisis last year, and the opening day was run under level 2 restrictions.
“It’s just a matter of waiting,” said Balcombe. “We will be moving towards everything happening – we’ve still got three weeks to the first day.”
Murphy said most of the events sector needs to be “back at level 1” to operate again, with particular difficulty for events needing to order large quantities of food and facing risk of substantial loss if having to cancel at the last minute.
Organisations need to have “great relationships” and contracts with sponsors and suppliers, and back-up dates if possible.
He acknowledged the possibility that with the uncertainty now a fact of life after almost 18 months since the start of the first lockdown in March last year enthusiasm for organising might start to disappear.
“There probably are some events where people have second thoughts,” he said. “But there are some pretty passionate people who want to deliver everything possible with their events for the benefit of everybody. There are enough with the passion to keep delivering.”