TW Events & Incentives events manager Adam Reinsfield says the lack of consistency around crowd sizes permitted at hospitality venues – which saw the 100-person cap removed – and event and entertainment venues – which initially did not – had already taken a toll.
In Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Monday press conference, it was announced that the majority of New Zealand would continue to operate in Level 2. However, confusion around the removal of the 100-person limit, and whether it applied to events as well as those deemed hospitality venues, has forced the postponement of the 600-person Southland Business Excellence Awards, set to be held at Bill Richardson Transport World on Friday 15 October.
"We just feel really let down. Those of us in the business events industry don’t even seem to be an afterthought for the Government – we’re not being thought of, at all," he says.
"It’s pretty soul-destroying. There has not been a positive COVID-19 case in the South Island for almost a year, but we’re still hamstrung by it. We need a reprieve.
"We believe we can run business events safely. However, there’s no real alignment or consistency around the principles being applied to how different industries, whether they are hospitality or events venues, can mitigate the risks of COVID-19. Those decisions have a real-life impact on people’s livelihoods," Reinsfield says.
"We want to play by the rules – we just wish the rules were clearer, and made sense."
The lack of clear communication from the Government is incredibly frustrating, he says.
"It’s really difficult for us, and our clients, to try and navigate the rules and how they apply to us as a business. It’s just illogical that what we can and can’t do seems to come down to semantics – and in the meantime, our industry suffers."
Southland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sheree Carey says Monday's announcement did not provide clear guidelines, or respite, for the events industry.
"Due to the lack of clarity around the new restrictions for hosting events, the Chamber had no alternative but to postpone the 2021 Southland Business Excellence Awards," she says. "It was extremely confusing and not helpful. We are obviously frustrated and disappointed."
TW Events & Incentives is a member of Business Events Industry Aotearoa. Its chief executive Lisa Hopkins says she is working closely with the Government to obtain greater clarity around how its guidelines impact the sector, but she agrees some decision-making does not take the highly-managed nature of business events into consideration.
"We need the Government to recognise the impact lockdowns have on places like Southland who have not seen a case of COVID-19 in the community since early last year. Given this sector is professionally managed, next week should have been a huge highlight for the Southland business community," she says.
"Instead, they feel forced to cancel. This is not only disappointing for them but also for the sector and supporting industries who look forward to an event of this magnitude."