September 7, 2021 | By Bronwen Largier

Most of New Zealand will move to Level 2 of the country’s four level pandemic alert system from midnight tonight, with only Auckland remaining at the highest alert level as new cases in the New Zealand Delta outbreak continue to decline.

However restrictions on events at Alert Level 2 have been tightened to allow only 50 people to gather in the same space inside – down from the previously allowed 100 people at the same alert level. Service of food and drink must be for seated attendees only and face masks are encouraged – and mandatory for customer-facing staff.

New Zealand’s major business events association, Business Events Industry Aotearoa (BEIA), says the new restrictions make additional financial support essential for the industry.

“While Auckland is in Alert Level 4 or at Level 3, operating a business event on any scale is significantly more challenging for all regions,” says BEIA Chief Executive, Lisa Hopkins.

“It is now time for the Government to look at business events specifically, and not just as a sector that may receive benefit from other support programmes put in place for regional tourism organisations, major events or tourism.

“Our ask is that the Government continues with the Resurgence Subsidy Programme, not as a one-off, but as on-going support.”

The Resurgence Subsidy was similar to Australia’s JopKeeper program, offering employers $585.80 for each full time employee.

“This period, prior to Christmas, is considered to be our busiest time of the year. The worst possible scenario is that the sector and the vast number of businesses who support it are unable to generate any income until February 2022 at the earliest,” Hopkins says.

“These are businesses who have not only shown remarkable resilience, but also sustainable business practices to overcome the COVID rollercoaster.

“They should be celebrated and supported for how they have sustained New Zealand and other sectors during this time.

“As the safest and most controlled form of gathering, the business events industry is not only a significant economic contributor to New Zealand, it also employs thousands of people and makes important but often unrecognised community contributions,” says Hopkins.

“Business events are a key driver within the local economy, using local restaurants, staying in city hotels mid-week, and visiting local tourism attractions.

“In May this year, BEIA collaborated with the Events and Venues Association of New Zealand (EVANZ) to develop the Level 2 Framework to address this very issue of operating larger numbers under Level 2 safely, to ensure we could continue to operate at sustainable levels. It included scanning as key to ensuring the health and safety of participants and the community. We believe we have been ahead of the pack, even ahead of Government, on this.”

Hopkins says right now clarity is key as confidence has been compromised by the latest outbreak and the uncertainty it generates.

“Right now, the sector is busy rebooking, replanning, and redoing a momentous amount of work. They are not receiving any income for this. Confidence feeds this sector and right now, while there is loyalty, confidence is low with customers. Staff also need assurance. Everyone is looking for guidance and transparency.

“We need clarity on the future intent. We are looking for measures and other key indicators so that we can understand when we may be able to get back to Alert Level 1. Given the industry’s contribution to hospitality and tourism, it is imperative for these sectors to also have insight into how this sector will be able to provide support in the future.

“We are not asking for business advice and implementation support – these businesses have already proved to be sustainable and viable. They just need to keep the lights on and staff employed so they can play their vital role in New Zealand’s recovery and reconnection with the world,” Hopkins says.