Tough times for shows

TASMANIA’S large-scale rural events such as Agfest and regional agricultural shows could become unviable because of continuing Covid restrictions.

The State Government hasn’t shown any interest in changing event caps while other states such as Victoria plan to do so at 90 per cent vaccination rate.

Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania chief executive Scott Gadd says Tasmania is squandering the opportunities presented by the state’s ultra-low Covid-19 cases.

Premier Peter Gutwein said Tasmania’s position was “the envy of the nation”.

However, last week’s Royal Hobart Show operated at a limited capacity resulting in a significant financial loss.

After cancellation of several rural and metropolitan shows over the past two years, many of the events will continue to struggle under limitations.

“Ultimately the 5000-person cap is not sustainable for us financially,” Mr Gadd said.
“If it stays, we won’t be able to continue,” he said.

Mr Gadd said while he understood the need for some restrictions to be maintained, he expected a loss of about $200,000.

“We can’t continue to run with a loss.”

The Covid restrictions could hamper next year’s premier field day event, Agfest. Normally Agfest would attract more than 60,000 people and pump more than $27 million into the local economy.

However, that too, has restrictions placed on it making it tougher for stallholders and the Agfest committee to run a viable event.

From November 1, free-moving events in Tasmania are still capped at of 5000 attendees under the State Government’s Revised Event Framework.

For the Royal Hobart Show, if that capacity was reached across the six sessions held across four days, they could have hoped for a maximum of 30,000 people through the gate.

With the Wednesday sessions being cancelled due to the snap-lockdown over the weekend before, it was estimated that around 22,000 people attended the show across the remaining three days.

In an interrupted 2019 show, more than 40,000 people walked through the gate, 20,000 on the Thursday public holiday.

Several regional shows have previously spoken to Tasmanian Country regarding the difficulties of running a show under restricted conditions, with lower capacities and increased expenses making it difficult to financially justify the event.

Regional agricultural shows, such as the Hamilton Show inof dedicated volunteers, the extra bureaucratic burdens of Covid-19 restrictions makes their task harder and for the event less viable.

This has also culminated in show cancellations at Brighton, Burnie, Launceston and recently the Circular Head show.

However, the Circular Head Greenham’s Trade and Export Cattle (Carcase) competition is going ahead.

Smaller events like the Hamilton and Bream Creek shows are still planned to go ahead.

The Victorian Government announced unrestricted capacity at events once it achieved a vaccination rate of 90 per cent.

Tasmania currently sits at 87.1 per cent first dosage, yet there is no plan to ease restrictions.

Tourism, Hospitality and Events Minister Sarah Courtney was contacted for an updated timeframe for restrictions being lifted on larger-scale events, with Tasmanian borders opening on December 15.

A Government spokesperson did not suggest an updated Events Framework upon reaching a higher vaccine target.

“We have worked closely with the Royal Hobart Show and provided $250,000 in direct financial assistance, as well as in-kind assistance, in addition to the Agricultural Show Development Grants Program which was targeted to support the sustainability of agricultural show societies,” the spokesperson said.

“As we prepare to open to open our borders on December 15 it will be important for some restrictions to remain in place to keep Tasmanians safe.”

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