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Fearing that ‘venues will close’ EVANZ calls for greater consideration of mass gathering restrictions

Fearing that ‘venues will close’ EVANZ calls for greater consideration of mass gathering restrictions
August 25, 2020

Without ways being found to keep them open, says the Entertainment Venues Association of New Zealand (EVANZ) has expressed its fears that damage of ongoing mass gathering restrictions and changing of Levels in New Zealand’s COVID-19 response will impact the country’s venues long into the future, with some likely to be forced to close.

The organisation’s response follows yesterday’s announcement by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that restrictions on gathering numbers of more than 10 people in Auckland and 100 people in other parts of the country will be extended, potentially until 6th September.

EVANZ Board Member and Trusts Arena Chief Executive, Mark Gosling advised “while we agree with a COVID-19 Elimination Strategy - examples of what other countries are doing would be worse for the sector - we cannot support endless changing of gathering number restrictions.

"We don’t agree that larger events can’t go ahead safely under Levels 2. We don’t believe social distancing rules should be the new normal in theatres, venues and at events. We don’t want our future to be empty rugby stadia and online performance. So we have to find other ways of keeping events running and our venues open.”

Explaining that EVANZ believes a series of COVIDSafe rules can be applied in theatre and venue settings, to help arts organisations, particularly, continue to perform to audiences, and for sports games to go ahead with crowds, Gosling stated "compulsory masks are great, temperature checks on arrival are fine, new ways of ticketing people to stop human-to-human contact are fine, but we cannot keep postponing and cancelling events, tours and performances without more financial support for the sector.

“When considering the proposed Level 1.5, and even Auckland’s new '2.5', the Government needs to think very seriously about limiting gathering numbers in venues, stadia and performance settings. Even better, include the industry in those discussions."

EVANZ highlights that arts, performance and sports events are largely unable to go ahead at Level 2 as social distancing on a stage is impossible and is very difficult in most theatre foyers and toilets. It’s also not feasible to sell every second seat or take out every second rows of seats – in most cases, the events cannot be sustained by half the ticket sales.

Gosling added “New Zealand’s many venues - from independent theatres all the way through to large sports stadia and events centres - have all but been forgotten in all of the COVID funding. In addition, the constant uncertainty is also an issue for arts organisations, who can’t dive on stage as soon as they’re permitted to. There is a long planning and rehearsal period, and they need weeks to drive ticket sales. It’s expensive and deeply frustrating to keep shifting everything by a few weeks or days at a time.

“The fact is, many of New Zealand’s beloved independent venues are hanging by a thread, and they will close. There are so many beautiful, historical and community venues across the country which mean so much, and bring so much heritage, visitation and storytelling, to the communities in which they sit. While the wage subsidy has provided some support until now, many of our members are nervous about the future and - when it comes to financial support - are falling through the cracks. Events deliver a significant amount to New Zealand’s GDP and employ thousands of people.

"We have to come up with ways for venues to deliver their events safely to the many New Zealanders who benefit from them."

EVANZ represents over 120 venues across New Zealand, including theatres, stadia, arenas, convention centres, sports grounds and community event centres. It also works with many organisations and suppliers who provide goods and services to New Zealand venues, from lighting and technology companies, to catering and security.

Lower image: The final game in the Super Rugby Aotearoa game between the Highlanders v Hurricanes on Saturday 15th August was held without fans at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.

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