December 3rd saw the end of Alert Levels and the transition to the COVID Protection Framework (CPF). After weeks of uncertainty, the Government announced which areas of the country would be at what traffic light setting. For many in the events industry, particularly those involved in larger, outdoor events, the announcement unfortunately did not mark a bright new beginning. There was however a glimmer of hope for venues with procedures in place to check vaccine passports – in some areas of the country.
As of 3rd December, it was announced that Auckland, Northland, Taupō, Rotorua Lakes, Whakatāne, Kawerau, Ōpōtiki, Gisborne, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu Districts were in red, with the rest of the country in orange, and a review date set for 13th December.
At ‘Red’ events are still very limited. Now categorised as ‘Controlled Access Events’, events held at cinemas, theatres, stadiums, and concert and conference venues can go ahead with My Vaccine Pass requirements but there can only be up to 100 people in a defined space at the venue at any time, based on 1-metre physical distancing. This includes children, but not staff. Outdoor community gatherings such as street parades, free public concerts and community fairs can go ahead under the same criteria, again within a ‘single defined space’. Essentially, the 100 person limit puts paid to the much anticipated summer concerts and festivals, Christmas parades and firework displays in any red zoned area.
At ‘Orange’ the above categorised events can go ahead with My Vaccine Pass requirements and no limit on the number of people who can attend, similarly at ‘Green’. However, with My Vaccine Pass requirements involving sighting all attendees’ Vaccine Passes at point of entry or as soon as possible after, your Christmas parades, firework displays, and other more community-oriented events will still struggle. Councils across the country canned their Christmas and New Year festivities citing the complexities of planning events under the new system.
‘Controlled Access Event’ organisers’ responses varied. Organisers of Gisborne’s Rhythm & Vines, in consultation with the local community, opted not to wait for the review date to see if they would come out of red in time. The festival postponed until April and Hamish Pinkham bravely talked up Aucklanders and international tourists relishing an Easter road trip to Gisborne. On the other hand, organisers of Northern Bass in Mangawhai, also in a red zoned area of the country, decided to wait for the next update on the 13th, optimistically hoping for a shift to orange.
Meanwhile in the orange zoned South Island, Rhythm & Alps, Summer Sounds and Rolling Meadows are forging ahead.
The wider industry watches and waits to see how successfully larger events manage scanning vaccine passes, the extra staffing and time required for physically processing people, and the potential for congestion. Or the clever ways they intend to get around all that. Alex Turnball and Rhythm & Alps seem to be leading the way having worked with their ticketing partner to integrate the new vaccine passport technology. Each festival ticket holder can upload their vaccine pass to their Ticket Fairy account and once verified, their ticket is marked as valid at the gate for entry.
Reflecting on theatres and concert venues, Entertainment Technology New Zealand President Vicki Cooksley comments, “We are still in the early days of this new framework and are yet to see how venues and production companies find new ways to work. I predict there will be a steep and fast period of learning and encourage all to share so we can all learn how to operate in this new way together, supporting each other.”
On 2 December in recognition of the continuing climate of uncertainty the Government announced a new payment trigger for the Events Transition Support Payment (ETSP), “designed to provide assurance to organisers of large-scale events, so they can continue organising our much anticipated summer events.” 5000+ attendee events meeting various criteria could be eligible for 90% of the event’s unrecoverable costs. Smaller events with an attendee capacity of 100 to 5000, or unticketed 5000+ events can also apply for non-recoverable costs through the Arts and Cultural Events Scheme. Both schemes require the events to be adhering to the My Vaccine Pass requirements in order to be eligible.
The new trigger covers events that are postponed or cancelled and are located in an area that is operating under the CPF and is at red or subject to a localised lockdown at any point within the four-week period prior to the start of the event; or if there has been no explicit announcement yet regarding the CPF settings for the specific date/s of the event.
Hopefully this alleviates at least some of the pressure which event organisers continue to operate under, as they sit tight and watch the traffic lights. President of ETNZ, Vicki Cooksley adds, “We continue to stay in communication with various government departments around these changes and will continue to pass on information as it is received though our newsletter, social media channels and website.”
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