Organisers of SailGP proposed setting up a privately-run managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facility or allowing personnel to self-isolate in a desperate bid to save New Zealand’s leg of the international race series from being cancelled.
Christchurch’s mayor Lianne Dalziel and SailGP chief executive Sir Russell Coutts were among those who lobbied for the alternative measures after Government officials declined an application to let 170 event personnel go through MIQ.
But their efforts were in vain, with no buy-in from Government ministers or officials.
In mid-September, SailGP announced the Christchurch round of the competition, to be held in January, was cancelled, much to the disappointment of civic leaders and businesses in the small port town of Lyttelton, where it was to be held.
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The event would have been one of the city’s largest since the earthquakes.
It was projected to garner a television audience of 50 million, and provide a national economic boost of up to $28 million.
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Organisers are still exploring hosting a round in the future.
Stuff asked the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to explain why SailGP was not recommended for MIQ space, but a spokeswoman said they could only answer if it was processed as an Official Information Act request – which could take up to 20 working days to respond.
Government ministers Grant Robertson and Kris Faafoi said the SailGP MIQ application came at a time of “high demand” for spots.
A balance had to be struck with border decisions, Robertson said. “I trust officials and my ministerial colleagues to make the right call.”
SailGP’s application was declined while the likes of the Bangladesh cricket team, the Blackcaps returning from India, and delegations for next year’s Winter Olympics and Paralympics were approved.
Responding to the MIQ refusal, ChristchurchNZ’s general manager of destination and attraction, Loren Heaphy, told Government officials in July: “I don’t quite know how to convey the emotional attachment Cantabrians have to the continued and prolonged missing out of on events in the city.”
“I’ve never seen the psyche of the city so excited,” she added.
Stuff can now reveal that SailGP organisers repeatedly tried to find ways to hold the Christchurch event.
Days after the MIQ refusal, Dalziel and Coutts put forward an alternative option.
They wrote to Robertson, Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash, and Sport New Zealand to suggest the event could go ahead if SailGP personnel self-isolated in bubbles in Australia before travelling to New Zealand.
ChristchurchNZ chief executive Joanna Norris said this week that the proposal was declined because of the trans-Tasman bubble closure.
A Sport New Zealand spokeswoman said after receiving this option they recommended SailGP seek an MIQ group allocation for a different time period.
The next idea put forward by organisers was to get New Zealand SailGP personnel to take part in the self-isolation pilot that the Government had recently announced, while foreign personnel would stay in a privately-managed isolation facility, paid for by SailGP and ChristchurchNZ.
Dalziel, along with Heaphy and Norris, were set to meet with minister Nash to present the idea on August 20.
On August 18, New Zealand went into lockdown and the meeting was cancelled.
Heaphy later spoke with the minister’s office and, summarising their response in an email, said self-isolation was being delayed due to the Delta outbreak.
In a letter Nash later wrote to the respective parties, he said privately-run MIQ facilities were not going to happen.
On August 26, with both of these efforts having failed and the Government not budging on MIQ space, SailGP pulled the plug on the January event – an outcome which has disappointed locals.
Vicki Tahau Paton, chairwoman of the Lyttleton Harbour Business Association, said it was sad, disappointing and unfortunate that Lyttelton had lost the chance to host the race.
Anne Parkinson, administration manager at The Lyttelton Arms restaurant, said SailGP would have been a huge boost for local businesses.
“We are not expecting huge numbers of international travellers this summer and so we really thought that SailGP would have filled in for us,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Nash said a lead official from the major events team at MBIE has spoken with SailGP organisers about potential Government investment in future seasons.
SailGP has since submitted an expression of interest to the Government’s major events fund.
“[Nash] remains willing to consider Crown investment in SailGP as it would be an incredible addition to New Zealand’s events portfolio,” the spokeswoman said.