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Organisers cautiously optimistic Covid-19 won’t ruin plans for summer events


Speedway has a starting date of February 2022 and owner Bruce Robertson says fans are eager to get back to the Arena (file photo).

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Speedway has a starting date of February 2022 and owner Bruce Robertson says fans are eager to get back to the Arena (file photo).

Despite Covid-19 casting a cloud over summer plans, Manawatū’s main slate of events are going ahead.

Many of the regions biggest events such as the Speedway Superstock Team Champs, Christmas at the Races and the New Zealand Rural Games are still on track to go off.

Central Economic Development Agency business development manager Nats Suburamanian​ said even though venues and event organisers were feeling the strain from a string of cancellations over the past two years, they were cautiously optimistic about this summer.

“There is definitely [still] a sense of unease because of prevalent uncertainties. At the same time, the ramping up of vaccinations has brought some optimism back.”

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Diwali is one of many summer events requiring a rethink under Covid-19 uncertainty.

Warwick Smith/Stuff

Diwali is one of many summer events requiring a rethink under Covid-19 uncertainty.

After the Super Saturday vaccination drive, 85 per cent of Kiwis have had their first dose and 66 per cent were fully vaccinated – closing in on the 90 per cent vaccination rate that government officials had discussed as a potential sign post for significantly reduced restrictions.

Over the past week, the Government has also unveiled plans for a vaccine certificate, which will be required to attend larger festivals and may also be required for smaller venues, bars and restaurants.

It also tweaked Delta alert level 2 rules to remove the cap on how many people can attend an event held at a venue as long as everyone can stay 1 metre apart.

Palmerston North City Council head of events Luke McIndoe said this change would allow many of the city’s planned events to go ahead.

“However, the guidelines explicitly said that team/community sport events, even at an event facility, any event at a park, and parades must be capped at 100 people.”

That meant a rethink for popular upcoming events in Palmerston North such as Guy Fawkes, Diwali and the city’s Christmas parade.

McIndoe said the council was working with community groups and would make announcements on what would happen for each event closer to the time.

The city council is working with community groups on events such as Guy Fawke’s to see how they might operate under alert level 2 restrictions.

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The city council is working with community groups on events such as Guy Fawke’s to see how they might operate under alert level 2 restrictions.

“Hopefully we will be able to host some form of Christmas and New Year celebrations… [and] we will decorate the city centre and light up our Christmas tree regardless.”

Awapuni Racecourse Function Centre general manager Lewis Jones said venue operators had struggled with significant lost revenue during the pandemic.

Like many places, most of the centre’s revenue came in summer.

“Usually summer is about making hay while the sun shines, but this year it’s looking rather cloudy.”

Jones said organisers were still nervous about booking events because there was no guarantee there wouldn’t be an outbreak or lockdown on any given date.

“A lot of people are nervous about attending, but grateful the events are going on.”

Palmerston North Speedway promoter Bruce Robertson said that had not been the case with the sports fans who were eager to get back into Central Energy Trust Arena.

“We’re being bombarded with people asking when the season will start. Normally we’re one of the first tracks in the country to [get going].”

The 2021/2022 Speedway season was due to start last weekend, but was pushed back to accommodate the end of the rugby season after the delays caused by the lockdowns.

The Superstock Teams Champs, one of Palmerston North’s biggest events of the summer, which usually injects over $3 million into the local economy, was looking good for February.



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