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CORONAVIRUS: Mass event cancellations

Last year’s Wairarapa Balloon Festival. PHOTO/FILE

Coronavirus testing under way in Wairarapa

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The reality of covid-19 has struck Wairarapa with organisers cancelling events this weekend and beyond.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday afternoon banned public gatherings with more than 500 people, either indoors or outdoors.

“To slow the spread of covid-19, reduce the number of people infected and protect those who are more vulnerable to severe illness, today Cabinet agreed that gatherings of 500 or more people held outdoors, or indoors should be cancelled,” she said.

“This applies to non-essential events such as festivals, fairs, sporting, religious, and cultural events.”

Earlier in the day, UCOL Wairarapa cancelled its graduation ceremony on March 26.

About 156 students were set to graduate.

Martinborough’s Round the Vines this weekend has been postponed, and next month’s Wairarapa Balloon Festival has been cancelled.

“There was a lot of thinking over the weekend and communication between organising committee members and we felt it was the responsible thing to do even though the government had not required it to be cancelled,” Martinborough School principal Craig Nelson said.

“[Round the Vines] has run for 25 years rain or shine and this is the first time it has been put off.

“But we hope to hold the event later in the year.”

Many schools around the region have cancelled their scheduled annual fundraising events and others are waiting to get more government direction on whether they will need to pull the plug.

While the Wairarapa Balloon Festival has been cancelled before because of bad weather, the organisers announced late Monday afternoon that it was “with a heavy heart” the 2020 event was called off.

Wairarapa Balloon Society chairman Howard Watson said the festival created mass gatherings of people with open access to all events, making traceability difficult should the virus be spreading.

“We support the government in making public health a priority,” Watson said.

“Consideration of the government’s travel isolation restrictions have been taken into account, and these restrictions will therefore prevent overseas pilots from attending.

“We are obviously very disappointed that we will be unable to proceed.”

All pre-purchased tickets for the Night Show will be refunded.

Masterton Motorplex manager Bob Wilton won’t have his Australian drivers coming to the Aeroflow Outlaw Nitro Funny Cars event scheduled for this Saturday night.

But he was waiting for direction from central government about whether he could still run the event.

The drag racing national finals are planned for this Saturday at the Solway track.

Masterton Racing Club president Ray Southey at this stage intends to hold the club races this Sunday at the Tauherenikau Racecourse but is seeking advice from the New Zealand Racing Board today.

Tourists spend about $195 million annually, according to Destination Wairarapa figures.

About 1500 people are employed in tourism in Wairarapa and there are about 250,000 commercial annual guest nights in the Wairarapa each year.

A spokesperson said it was fortunate Wairarapa events were well attended by the community and did not have a huge reliance on international guests unlike some other tourist destinations that are likely to suffer more of a financial loss.

But 40 per cent of visitors to Pukaha National Wildlife Centre are international tourists.

Its general manger Emily Court issued a statement on Monday saying that it would need visitors closer to home to visit and help it to sustain its conservation work.

Featherston Booktown operations manager Mary Biggs said the trustees were discussing whether the event set for May 7-10 would go ahead.

Biggs intends to make an announcement today.

The government said it would issue more guidance later in the week and would give a “clear pathway” to help event organisers plan how to mitigate risks or cancel.

Wairarapa Hospital communications manager Anna Cardno confirmed that the hospital was testing people that fit the definition of the virus and that testing occurred in primary care.


  1. Why the self censorship?
    In your 644 word front page article on people potentially not making as much profit as expected in the very last sentence you offhandedly mention symptomatic locals being tested.

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