Shows on the brink

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

The State Government has shown no 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 said 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”.

Last month’s Royal Hobart Show operated at a limited capacity resulting in a significant financial loss.

After cancellation of several rural shows and regional events in the past two years, many 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 he expected a loss of about $200,000.

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.

From November 1 , free-moving events in Tasmania are still capped at 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 visitors.

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

In an interrupted 2019 show, more than 40,000 people walked through the gate. Several regional shows and events have previously said restricted conditions made them difficult to financially justify.

A new committee organising the Koonya Garlic Festival next February is defying convention and working at putting on the event despite restrictions.

Tourism, Hospitality and Events Minister Sarah Courtney was contacted for an updated timeframe for restrictions being lifted on larger-scale events.

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

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