The Entertainment Venues Association of New Zealand (EVANZ) has warned that ongoing restrictions on mass gatherings in the country will have a long-term impact on venues, some of which will be forced to close if sustainable revenue streams cannot be found.

EVANZ represents over 120 venues across New Zealand, including theatres, stadia, arenas, convention centres, sports grounds and community event centres. The body also works with organisations and suppliers that provide services for New Zealand venues.

New Zealand had gone over 100 days without any COVID-19 infections but as of Friday the country had recorded 97 new cases since August 11.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced earlier today (Monday) 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 September 6.

In response to the Prime Minister’s announcement, EVANZ argued that some venues should be able to stage events without serious restrictions.

“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,” Mark Gosling, EVANZ board member and chief executive of Auckland’s Trusts Arena, said.

“We don’t agree that larger events can’t go ahead safely under Level 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.”

EVANZ noted that arts, performance and sports events are largely unable to go ahead at Level 2 of New Zealand’s COVID-19 strategy.

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 an issue for arts organisations, who can’t dive on stage as soon as they’re permitted.

“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.”

Image: Eden Park