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2023 NZ Event Awards winners thrive in the face of adversity

Last night’s New Zealand Events Association’s (NZEA) annual Event Awards were joyously and deservedly celebrated at a Gala Dinner in Ōtautahi Christchurch. Elaine Linnell, NZEA’s General Manager, said it was gratifying to see over 350 people from the events community come together to celebrate success.

The NZEA joined with ChristchurchNZ in a successful partnership to host the Awards at the Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre. Linnell said the winners of each category stood out for various reasons, but for many, it was a case of overcoming adversity in significant and very effective ways.

Ali Adams, the Chief Executive of ChristchurchNZ, said: “It has been wonderful to partner with NZEA to host the Awards in Ōtautahi Christchurch. Events help make our vibrant new city a balanced place to live and visit, both for business visitors and tourists. Our city knows about challenges and the power of events to help lift both a community’s spirits and its economy.”

The winner of Outstanding Contribution to Business Events, sponsored by BEIA, Brent Spillane of XPO Exhibitions, faced a daunting task common to the entire events industry: to survive, rebuild, and find a new normal in the aftermath of Covid-19. However, XPO faced the additional difficulty of having just doubled its consumer events business pre-Covid.

“Then came the massive blow that New Zealand was set to lose its largest purpose-built venue for events, concerts and exhibitions – the Auckland Showgrounds. Brent recognised the grave repercussions of losing such a crucial venue and fought tirelessly on behalf of the industry to successfully secure the showgrounds. This monumental achievement stands as one of his most significant contributions to the events industry during this challenging period.”

Flavours of Plenty, a not-for-profit collective and initiative of Tourism Bay of Plenty, won Best Lifestyle Event and Best Local Government Event joint with Hilma af Klint. for its 2023 festival. A 10-day programme of events spanning the entire coastal Bay of Plenty, showcased the abundance of plentiful produce available throughout the Bay.

“The festival stood out because it not only connected the culinary ecosystem, it provided opportunity for education and employment and connected producers to plate, elevating the Bay’s people, produce, plates and place to the benefit of the entire region,” said Linnell. “Collaboration was truly at the core of the festival, with an emphasis on relationship management of the many stakeholders who put on a number of creative events that encouraged collaboration and participation.”

The winner of Best Venue 2023 is encouraging to smaller entrants, said Linnell, because it proves you don’t have to be big to stand out. “When Northland Events Centre hosted 11 out of 12 international teams at the 2021 Rugby World Cup, ticket sales exceeded all expectations. It could have been a victim of its own success, but the team showed exceptional leadership and innovation in seamlessly managing more than 150,000 attendees when only 87,000 were predicted to attend. This sudden surge in ticket sales presented operational difficulties, including the need to arrange additional food vendors, bars, contractors, parking, traffic management, staffing, beverages, health and safety compliance and communication within a short timeframe. Despite being a small team, the venue demonstrated exceptional problem-solving abilities and resourcefulness when faced with larger crowds.”

Further to this, Rugby World Cup 2021 won Best Major or Mega Event 2023 and Best Sports Event 2023.

As winner of the Best Music Event 2023, The Eden Park Trust had perhaps no greater mountain to climb than hosting back-to-back Ed Sheeran concerts in February at Eden Park – just 12 days after torrential rain and a cyclone hammered Auckland and the stadium itself. Linnell said the team is to be thoroughly congratulated for getting the venue fit for purpose in time for the concerts, as well as supporting the struggling Auckland community in the wake of the devastation.

“It was ‘all hands on deck’ as the core Eden Park team came in two weekends in a row to tackle the flood damage, wading through water to rescue furniture, unblocking drains and carrying waterlogged pieces of turf across the field. After long days slogging away in the stadium, the team returned to their desks in the evening to catch up on emails, send out tickets and coordinate guest lists. This mammoth effort resulted in overwhelmingly positive feedback from attendees of the concerts.”

The people have spoken with an overwhelming vote, and New Zealand’s Favourite Event of 2023, sponsored by Gallagher Insurance is the Centuria Taranaki Garden Festival, presented annually by the Taranaki Arts Festival Trust (TAFT). The 10-day spring festival showcases more than 40 of Taranaki’s unique gardens, attracting thousands of attendees. “Under TAFT’s management, the festival has developed a successful ticketing system, large sponsorship base and an inspiring and diverse events programme. It has substantially increased its national audience as well as breaking into the international market,” said Linnell.

“The festival is one of only a handful in New Zealand that were able to present during the Covid pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 and was particularly successful in changing its marketing strategy to attract local attendees to replace those unable to attend due to travel restrictions and health concerns. Despite a tumultuous couple of years, the festival has not only survived but thrived, retaining an incredibly loyal base of partners and attendees and attracting new audiences and supporters.”

Shane Harmon, CEO of Wellington’s Sky Stadium, was crowned winner of the Outstanding Contribution to the Industry category for 2023, sponsored by ChristchurchNZ. “Shane’s leadership, innovation, and unwavering commitment have set a standard for stadiums and venues nationally,” said Linnell. “In his 20-year career, Shane has made a huge impact on the Wellington and national events scene.

He has fostered strong and enduring relationships with sports and major promoters and has brought world-class events to the city. He has been a strong advocate for professional women’s sport and has led Sky Stadium through the hosting of four international World Cup Events. Shane has overseen major renovation projects, transforming Sky Stadium into a modern, state-of-the-art facility. Shane’s tenure is now ending and he is to be congratulated for taking Sky Stadium through a remarkable era.”

“We extend our heartiest congratulations to all our deserving winners who have managed to survive adversity and come out thriving and still smiling,” concluded Linnell.

2023 Winners:

Best Established Event Professional 2023

Sponsored by Celebrity Speakers

Simon Carter

Best Emerging Event Professional 2023

Sponsored by Sidekicker

Helene Nicholson, Nduro Events

Outstanding Contribution to Business Events 2023

Sponsored by BEIA

Brent Spillane, XPO Exhibitions

Best Arts or Cultural Event 2023

Sponsored by Creative New Zealand

Bread & Circus – World Buskers Festival, Strut & Fret NZ

Best Business Event 2023

Sponsored by ChristchurchNZ

Day One – One New Zealand Launch, Uno Loco

Best Community or Not-for-Profit Event (under 3000) 2023

South Island Masters Games, Carter Consultants

Best Community or Not-for-Profit Event (over 3000) 2023

The Silent Night, Wellington Regional Stadium Trust

Best Lifestyle Event 2023

Flavours of Plenty Festival 2023, Tourism Bay of Plenty

Best Local Government Event 2023

Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings, City Gallery Wellington, part of Experience Wellington


Flavours of Plenty Festival 2023, Tourism Bay of Plenty

Best Major or Mega Event 2023

Rugby World Cup 2021, New Zealand Rugby

Best Music Event 2023

Sponsored by APRA

Ed Sheeran at Eden Park, The Eden Park Trust

Best Sports Event 2023

Sponsored by Ticketek

Rugby World Cup 2021, New Zealand Rugby

Best Venue

Sponsored by EVANZ

Northland Events Centre (Semenoff Stadium)

Best Supplier 2023

Sponsored by NZME

PPG Events for PPG Cruise 2022-23

Best Event Innovation 2023

Jim Beam Homegrown, Homegrown Events Limited

Best Event Marketing and Creative 2023

Sponsored by Phantom Billstickers

ON SHOW Spring Campaign ChristchurchNZ

Outstanding Contribution to the Industry 2023

Sponsored by ChristchurchNZ

Shane Harmon

New Zealand’s Favourite Event 2023

Sponsored by Gallagher Insurance

Centuria Taranaki Garden Festival, TAFT – Taranaki Arts Festival Trust


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