June 2, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

The MEETINGS welcome event at Weta Workshop Unleashed last night was a shoulder-to-shoulder and back-to-back crowd that the 49 Australian buyers and media may have found rather unfamiliar, as Business Events Industry Aotearoa’s (BEIA) flagship trade event for the New Zealand business events industry kicked off in Auckland.

Acknowledgements of those who were and weren’t able to join the event from Australia were front and centre.

“We’re very very grateful for those of you who made it across the ditch,” said BEIA Chief Executive Lisa Hopkins.

“Here we are, and this is truly a moment of celebration,” she said later.

And – possibly a positive of New Zealand’s international border closure – the night had a big special guest: multiple Academy Award winner and creator of the evening’s recently opened venue, Sir Richard Taylor, of, most notably, Lord of the Rings props, costumes and prosthetics fame, who made some pertinent comments about investments during COVID and shared goals between his work and the events industry.

“Many said to us that we must be completely mad to continue to push forward [with completing the venue] at a time of COVID but I felt very strongly that if we didn’t continue to show confidence in what New Zealand could be emerging out of COVID then what were we worth, and it was important that we played our part in it,” he said.

“This place is definitely set up to try and engage with people around the love of creating and the love of making.

“We desperately also wanted to create an amazing event space.

“We appreciate that…people like yourselves all over New Zealand are constantly trying to promote the idea of bringing national and international guests to centres around New Zealand and we really love the idea of creating something super special that will give you a place to invite your guests.

“I realise that you guys are similar to us in that you’re pushing the creative story, the journey, the experience, the sense of connection to special things in New Zealand and that’s what indeed what we wanted to do,” said Taylor.