Bleak weather punishes events organisers to the tune of millions, while inflation stalks the future

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As if the Covid response of lockdowns and restrictions imposed by the Government on the events industry wasn’t enough, recent severe weather events have dealt a further harsh blow to operators in the North Island.

That’s emerged in recent research conducted by the New Zealand Events Association (NZEA), which shows organisers had to cancel nearly 300 events as a direct consequence of the Auckland floods and Cyclone Gabrielle. If not a knockout punch, it is undoubtly a bitter pill to swallow, says NZEA general manager Elaine Linnell. There’s another storm on the horizon, too, as organisers expect inflation and rising prices to impact their efforts in the near future.

“In addition to our usual annual poll which tracks the pulse of the industry, we asked our members about the impact of the heavy weather, and the responses show it is severe,” she says. “Coming as this does on top of the recent years-long restrictions in the Covid response, it’s safe to say it has been a harrowing time for the industry.”

One respondent noted, “Higher costs of living, higher interest rates, bad weather and continued waves of Covid make this environment one of the most challenging ever for NZ promoters.”

Estimated by the respondents, the financial losses run into the millions. “We have some individual operators reporting losses exceeding the $2million dollar mark, while others are well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The combined losses are significant – but more than that, they represent the loss of the enormous effort that goes into organising an event, from securing and booking talent to arranging venues, catering, security, sound and lighting, and more. It is heartbreaking.”

Exacerbating the situation, Linnell says the NZEA research shows that most operators – nearly 80 percent – were not insured ahead of the late 2022 and early 2023 summer events season. The reasons for the absence of insurance are varied and led with a third saying insurance wouldn’t have covered the losses. Nearly 21 percent didn’t think insurance was necessary, while just over 17 percent said it was too expensive, and slightly over 10 percent said understanding policies was too difficult. Nearly 52 percent said they would consider insurance cover for weather related impacts on future events – while 48 percent said they would not.

“There may be a lesson in the losses our members have had to shoulder. Insurance might be costly, and especially for large events, it is necessarily complex. But in the case of a complete washout, it provides some relief even if only partially covering costs.”

Looking ahead, event organisers foresee tough times. One commented, “It is really tough out there. Most event businesses were crushed by Covid last year and the ones that did survive were looking forward to this summer season to make back losses, and the weather has just killed us. At least with Covid you could apply for assistance and at least cover the costs of your staff.”

The poll confirms these fears are widespread. Nearly 75 percent of respondents indicated the biggest challenges in 2023 include increased costs to deliver events and a similar cohort expecting fewer attendees. Just over 60 percent said funding is hard to come by, with sponsors and funders seeing events as too risky. Staff shortages are an issue for nearly 30 percent of respondents, and volunteers are in short supply for 35 percent of respondents.

While the NZEA continues advocating for and advancing the issues facing the industry, Linnell says there is something every New Zealander can do, too. “Events are part of the rich tapestry of life. They aren’t just economic generators; they bring excitement, fun and cultural growth into our lives. Buy a ticket, go and see a show, get out there and support our events professionals.”

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