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PICTURE: MITCH WOLTERS

By PHILIP CHANDLER

Organisers of Queenstown’s huge Luma light festival have cancelled this year’s event.

Though sad and disappointed to be pulling the plug, ‘‘the harsh reality is there are too
many factors against us,’’ chair Duncan Forsyth says.

Those factors include uncertainty over both preparing for and running the event, in  terms of manpower, and ticket sales — last year’s Luma, held over four nights, drew 60,000-plus people to the Queenstown Gardens.

Though this year’s event was still 12 weeks away, Forsyth says it’s about now when they’d commit to the cost of staging the event, like building light installations.

‘‘The next three months is when we build and construct the event.’’

Performers, like aerialists, also start practising their routines.

If that’s not hard enough at the moment, with Covid running rampant through the community, ‘‘at the event, what’s the chance of getting 100% of our crew that we need to put it on?’’ Forsyth asks.

And then, what’s the chance of 60,000 people rocking up again?

‘‘Something like 60% of our income is based on tickets, if we don’t get 35,000 to 40,000 people through the door, we’re putting our hands in our own pockets, and the trust then has to spend all of its reserves.

‘‘We’re not sure of the appetite of people to come and spend a night with 10,000 other people’’ — even assuming limits on gathering numbers have lifted by then.

‘‘You’re seeing this overseas where people still aren’t going out to restaurants as much.’’

Organisers ‘not willing to compromise’

Forsyth says they’re grateful for the support they receive from community trusts, but in the current climate they don’t even want to approach businesses for funding.

‘Too much a roll of the dice’: Luma chair Duncan Forsyth

He adds they explored multiple options to still stage the event, ‘‘but it’s too much a roll of the dice’’.

And if this event failed, ‘‘there wouldn’t be a Luma 2023’’.

‘‘Sadly, we simply cannot deliver Luma to its full potential, and we’re not willing to compromise or jeopardise the experience.

‘‘We know it impacts greatly on the community, and we know there’s a level of responsibility, even though no one’s paying us to do this.’’

By one estimate, last year’s event pumped the lion’s share of $1.8 million into the economy, going by spending figures during Luma weekend.

As a result, Forsyth says they’re organising a small programme of much-lower-risk events across the region instead, which they’ll confirm soon.

It’ll again be under the ‘Lumify’ banner which Luma used when the event was also cancelled in 2020 in the wake of New Zealand’s first Covid outbreak.

There’ll also be a schools programme using alternative exhibition spaces.

Forsyth says they’re grateful to those who’d already bought tickets for this year’s Luma — full refunds will be offered, though ticket-holders can also hold them for next year.

Frustratingly for his team, ‘‘we’d planned what we thought was probably the best event ever, it was looking outrageously good’’.

A year of non-events (so far)

Luma’s cancellation comes after the ‘cancelled’ stamp’s already been applied to many  other high-profile Queenstown events.

This year’s toll — and this is just for the first four months of the year — includes:
●  Queenstown Marathon
●  Gibbston Valley Winery summer tour concert
●  NZ Open golf tournament
●  Motatapu Off-Road Event
●  Queenstown Bike Festival (postponed)
●  Garden Opera
●  Reggae in the Park
●  Highlanders v Moana Pasifika pre-season rugby game
●  Shotover Moonlight Mountain Marathon
●  Beer & BBQ Summit
●  The Queenstown Home Show
●  Queenstown Park Station Fun Ride
●  Arrow Sounds music festival
●  King Beats Charity Music Festival
●  Arrowtown Autumn Festival
●  NZ Mountain Running Championships (postponed)

scoop@scene.co.nz