Six60 concert, McLean Park. Photo: John Copland, supplied.

Napier knows how to throw a party. 

We’re built for celebrations. Ours is a walkable inner-city that can take a lot of people with laneways that make for interesting alternative journeys through our urban streetscapes. Our heritage buildings create a picture-postcard setting for festivities. Napier War Memorial Centre and Municipal Theatre, McLean Park and PettigrewGreen Arena, Regional Sports Park, Park Island and local wineries are among many of the tested venues for a range of events including music concerts and sporting events.

But a city is not just a backdrop for events, and events are not just a nice-to-have. Events can entice people in and leave them wanting more. Events can increase visitor nights and visitor spend. And events can cement the relationship between a person and a place so they feel good about being here and want to come back.

Some may say a council has no role in events: We’re not party planners, or sports promoters, we’re not in the business of hospo. We absolutely must though take an active role in ensuring our city hosts events. It’s an economic development imperative but it’s also good for us. It builds wellbeing and social capital. Events connect people and give them a common purpose. Locals feel pride when they host stars, whether it’s a pop star or a sport star. They give us a chance to show off our best bits, and convince our out-of-town friends to join us for the weekend. They make us feel good about ourselves and optimistic. 

Events financially support us too. We need to keep events in our long-term planning like we need to keep other economic development drivers. For domestic tourism, events are the main drawcard, so to stay on the visitor circuit we need to have things happening for them to come to.

The Six60 gig we hosted late last year saw over 5,000 people come in from out of town. The total in attendance was 15,000. They spent $834,000 between them and stayed for a total of 6,000 visitor nights. It did cost the region but not as much as it made us. The net benefit in dollars was over half a million.

When the Warriors played the Broncos in May this year 16,500 people showed up to watch; 7,000 of them from out of town. They stayed 9,000 nights and spent $1.6 million. The net benefit to the region was over $800k.

What we need to do is make sure people stay longer. Those extra visitor nights, due to people coming here for multi-day events, make a big difference to the bottom line. Financially, events benefit accommodation providers, hospitality outfits, the retail sector and others who operate in the wider tourism space. One in 10 people in Hawke’s Bay work in the tourism sector, so events have a role in strengthening our employment offering too.

One of the other things a healthy events industry ensures is that we have quality local event management expertise and strategy development. It’s all very well inviting people to come here but it benefits us most if we have the skills locally to ensure they are looked after and get the most out of events held here.

We also need to be constantly looking forward to ensure our calendar is as full as possible with festivals, concerts, exhibitions, sports fixtures, or food and beverage experiences. We need to sell Napier to promoters and organisers. We need to compete with other destinations and other venues. We need to be very active to ensure we are not overlooked in favour of bigger cities with the perception of more bustle and action. In short, we have to hustle.

Some events need a cash injection to get them off the ground, but others need help in different ways. Making connections, hooking into networks, promotion, local intel – these are all things we at council help with, as well as regulatory needs such as traffic management plans. 

Napier supports about 50 events every year, from community events like the Night Fiesta, Matariki Lightshow and the Christmas Parade, to national and international events like the cricket, NRL, Art Deco and major music concerts.

Our role is to facilitate what an organiser needs to help them deliver their event in our region. We also work with event owners who are based in Hawke’s Bay to grow their event here. In both cases, it’s in our region’s best interests to make sure events can happen here seamlessly and in a way that’s sustainable so they become a regular fixture. Every event needs different things from us so we are flexible and adaptable, working directly with the organiser on their specific and nuanced needs. 

It’s not an area traditionally associated with council, but Napier itself has always been a hub for happenings. We’re lucky we have spaces and places where we can host visitors. Ensuring we have quality events to put in our venues is just as important to help make Napier a desirable destination.


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1 Comment

  1. I agree we need the big events but there are many small events that need support to get them off the ground. I believe we tend to be overlooked and struggle to get any media attention.

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