ONE of the shining lights on the Tasmanian rural calendar, the Agfest field days, has lost its gloss on the back of Covid restrictions.
In a major blow for the local economy, the agricultural event of the year has been postponed till August next year.
Agfest is an agricultural tradition and has been a pivotal part of the rural landscape since the early 1980s being held in May for more than 30 years.
When a major event shifts its longhead scheduled date, it risks fading into oblivion.
Agfest pumps in an estimated $27 million into the local economy when in full flight, but now that economic stimulus is in jeopardy because of the postponement.
Hotels and restaurants in Launceston and surrounds will now need to reschedule staff for the new timeslot and hope they can recover lost income during the revised period.
The Rural Youth Organisation of Tasmania which runs Agfest moved from May 4 to 7 until August 24 to 27 due to concerns over the economic viability of running the event in May.
The Circular Head district has a scheduled public holiday on the Friday for Agfest in May, and because of that many people from the Far North West attend Agfest.
However, now the date has been changed that opportunity is lost.
Agfest is organised and run by Rural Youth volunteers and the committee was seeking permission from Public Health to have 15,000 patrons plus exhibitors and event staff on site each day.
Unfortunately the Agfest submission was rejected.
Organisers then needed to work within the updated Events Framework which currently states Agfest can have 5000 patrons plus exhibitors and event staff on site at any given day.
Rural Youth state president Josh Mison said the decision to postpone was not taken lightly and involved consultation with key stakeholders including the Tasmanian Government.
Exhibitor applications have been postponed immediately and reopen on February 1, 2022 and close on February 28, 2022.
“It is with careful consideration and investigation we have made the decision to postpone Agfest 2022 from May to August,” Mr Mison said.
“The safety of our patrons, members and exhibitors remains paramount as well as ensuring the financial viability of our event.”
Agfest committee chairman Caine Evans said volunteers and staff were dedicated and ready to go to ensure Agfest 2022 in August was a great event for all.
Primary Industries and Water Minister Guy Barnett said Agfest was an important event for the primary industries sector.
“Agfest is an agricultural tradition,” he said.
“I would like to thank Rural Youth Tasmania, the volunteers, the exhibitors and sponsors for their ongoing commitment to the event, and I look forward to attending Agfest in August next year,” Mr Barnett said.
Tourism, Hospitality and Events Minister Sarah Courtney said the Government had been trying to support Agfest to go ahead in 2022.
Rural events threatened by stupid rules
Opinion by Roger Hanson
WAKE up Government, your approach to limiting crowd numbers at our outdoor rural shows and events is slowly destroying our rural fabric and if we are not smart these events will be gone, never to return.
The Rural Youth Organisation of Tasmania say they made the decision to postpone Agfest to late August because of concerns with running an economically viable event in May with crowds capped at 5000 (which is half the 10,000 they had this year).
Those concerns have been brought about Government rules that simply don’t make sense and which worse, are out of step with the rest of the country.
Victoria, NSW and Queensland have no limits on crowd sizes at rural shows and events, yet for some reason Tasmania does.
Not that the same restrictions apply to sport, where you can have 10,000 people at a football match, or up to 5000 at a Jack Jumpers basketball game (indoors!).
Maybe Rural Youth should call it “Agfest Football Festival” or “Basketball Fest (Rural Edition)” and Agfest would be good to go?
Tasmanian Country is the official newspaper of Agfest and we cannot sit idly by as rules and regulations tamper with an agricultural tradition, Agfest.
We say “enough is enough of this nonsense” – the Government should use some common sense and allow Agfest to take place in May.
As we are going to print more than 87 per cent of Tasmanians aged 16-plus are double vaccinated.
The Premier says we must live with the virus – well, let’s do that and remove these crippling crowd caps.
Minister for Primary Industries and Water, Guy Barnett, said the Tasmanian Liberal Government is a strong supporter of Agfest, and recognises the significant contribution it makes to our state.
If that’s the case Minister, put those words into action, support Agfest to return to its proper scheduled date in May.
August is our wettest month.
If action isn’t take taken, we are likely to end up with “Mudfest” – and who knows whether it will be the last one we will ever have