Tourism events to drive local economies

Another cash lifeline is being rolled out to the regions after the approval of funding towards a wide range of events and activities to stimulate domestic tourism.

Contracts have now been signed with all nine regional tourism groupings to enable the $50 million Regional Events Fund to be distributed around the country.

“Event organisers and tourism operators from Northland to Southland will benefit from the events outlined in the plans from their regional organisations,” said Tourism Minister Stuart Nash.

“Events drive visitors, which brings economic spin-offs across the accommodation, hospitality and wider tourism and retail sectors. The Regional Events Fund was part of the government’s $400 million Tourism Recovery package.

“As well as stimulating local economies, the Regional Events Fund will also strengthen regions’ event management expertise and event strategy development,” said Stuart Nash.

“Before COVID19 around 60 percent ($24 billion) of tourism spending was from domestic travellers getting out and experiencing their own backyard. Kiwis also spent a further $9 billion on overseas trips every year. We are working to catch a portion of that spending while our borders remain closed to keep us safe from the global pandemic.

“Recent research by Tourism NZ also highlighted that a regional event, such as a festival, concert, exhibition, sports fixture, or food and beverage experience, is a major drawcard for Kiwis planning a domestic holiday.

“Now that tourism events funding has been approved to all regions, each regional grouping can get on with the job of planning and putting their proposal into action. Regions decide how to spend their own funds and will collaborate to avoid competing against each other.

“The first investment plan was approved in December, which confirmed $3.75 million for four regional tourism organisations collaborating as the Thermal Explorer Highway group.

“Already the Southern Lakes group, which received $8.5 million, is calling for tourism operators to apply for support from their contestable fund. This means there are even more reasons to visit Queenstown, Wanaka, Central Otago and Fiordland.

“Northland and Auckland, which received the largest investment, will use their $19 million by allocating funding for significant major and business events that will supplement existing programmes and strategies across Auckland and Northland. 

“Foodies might find themselves flocking to Hawke’s Bay as the region aims to develop a seasonal calendar for food-focused events.

“Wellington and Wairarapa are also working together to give Kiwis more reasons to visit year round.  Nelson and Marlborough are looking to increase visitor numbers by offering multi-day events.

“Overall, we can expect to see a range of exciting activities and events to tempt New Zealanders to travel between regions from autumn onwards. Work to support and rebuild the tourism and hospitality sectors remains ongoing.

“The Government is investing heavily in both increased promotion of domestic tourism, and direct support to tourism businesses to help drive the economic recovery,” Mr Nash said.

The Regional Events Fund funding is allocated to nine groups of Regional Tourism Organisations based on each region’s share of international visitor spending prior to COVID19.

Each group submitted an investment plan outlining their target audiences, how funding would stimulate visits from outside their region, and how they will collaborate rather than compete with other regions. 

An overview of the Regional Events Fund investment plans will be available on each regional group’s website. More information and links to these websites can also be found on MBIE’s Regional Events Fund webpage.

Regional allocations are as below:

Northland & Auckland marketing alliance: Auckland Unlimited, Northland Inc.

$19 million

The Regional Events Fund (REF) will be used to develop a significant programme of Major Events and Business Events that supplement existing programming and strategies to drive economic recovery in the region.

The REF will make targeted investment in strategically relevant events, develop growth plans with events over the period of the fund, and provide an opportunity for the event sector to propose new opportunities through contestable funds.

Thermal Explorer Highway marketing alliance: Destination Rotorua, Destination Great Lake Taupō, Visit Ruapehu, Hamilton & Waikato Tourism


The region is working together to create a contestable fund to focus on developing, securing or enhancing new and existing events to become long term sustainable “iconic” or “anchor” events for the regions. It will also support capability development of the wider ecosystem of events in the Thermal Explorer area.

Pacific Coast Highway marketing alliance: Western Bay of Plenty Tourism and Visitors Trust, Hawke's Bay Tourism, Trust Tairāwhiti, Destination Coromandel


As each of the sub-regions are at differing stages with their event strategies, funding will be split based on international visitor spend to the year ending January 2020 and utilised to support each RTOs goals and key focus areas.

  • Destination Coromandel will build a stronger calendar of events
  • Tourism Bay of Plenty is developing the region’s major events strategy and strengthening a calendar of regional events
  • Tairāwhiti Gisborne aims to use events as a lever to grow visitor spend over the next five years
  • Hawke’s Bay Tourism aims to enhance their current offering and support new activations to develop a seasonal calendar of food-focused events

Western North Island marketing alliance: Venture Taranaki, Whanganui & Partners, Central Economic Development Agency


The funding is being allocated across the regions to determine their own complementary focus areas to drive visitation through an enhanced events offering.

  • Taranaki is concentrating on event development, ‘supercharging’ existing successful events and continuing support for events affected by COVID-19.
  • Manawatu is focusing on building capability and capacity to deliver existing strategies, supercharging events that build on key regional strengths and developing one key iconic event for the region.
  • Whanganui is strengthening relevant existing events and developing one new iconic event, primarily through a contestable fund.

Wellington & Wairarapa marketing alliance: WellingtonNZ, Destination Wairarapa


The Regional Events Fund Investment Plan will support the goals of the region by;

  • Strengthening the annual calendar of events across the region that complements the existing events sector, providing the New Zealand market with more reasons to visit year-round.
  • Exploring new ideas through event development and feasibility that showcase the region’s best assets and continues to hold the region’s position as a leader in live experiences.
  • Strategically investing in events to maximise the economic, reputational, and social benefits to the region.

Nelson & Marlborough marketing alliance: Nelson Regional Development Agency, Destination Marlborough


The fund will be used to expand existing events and develop new opportunities. It will drive visits for multi day events, and leverage local strengths and competitive advantages for this region.

Events may work together to create a ‘total package’ around a central theme for a multi-day event, leveraging off each other and generating a more attractive proposition for tourists. An accelerator programme will also support event organisers, lift capability and build sustainable legacy events.

Canterbury & West Coast marketing alliance: ChristchurchNZ, Venture Timaru, Hurunui Tourism, Development West Coast, Destination Kaikōura, Mackenzie Tourism


The tourism investment will be used to develop and grow a focused portfolio of events that attracts visitors throughout the year. The tourism events will be designed to express the spirit of the region and its people, and leave a positive legacy for its community. It is also key opportunity to enhance regional collaboration.

The key focus areas are:

  • Showcase the region and encourage collaboration on any shared event themes and regional strengths such as food & wine, agriculture, adventure, wildlife, culture, as well as business events and family friendly events
  • Capability building, so that events are set up in a way to successfully attract visitors and deliver an increased contribution to the regional economies
  • Identify synergies and intra-regional leverage opportunities with new or existing events that can complement touring routes within the region
  • Collaborative programming of events across the region.

Southern Lakes marketing alliance: Destination Queenstown, Lake Wanaka Tourism, Tourism Central Otago, Destination Fiordland


The key focus of the Southern Lakes funding will be to ensure tourism events bring maximum economic benefit to the region, and make the most of tourism assets and venues. It will address a current lack of sponsorship and domestic visitors from outside the region, to help compensate for the lack of international visitors. This supports the immediate goal of supporting the wider business community and local event operators and suppliers who have felt the full impact of border closures. This aligns with longer term strategic goals to develop the region as an event friendly destination that encourages and supports the development of a balanced portfolio of events that reinforce key economic, community and strategic directions of the region.

Pure Southern Land marketing alliance: Enterprise Dunedin, Great South, Tourism Waitaki, Development Clutha


This group aim to stimulate new domestic visitors travelling to their regions to attend an event. There is a range of suggested support for existing events that might need support to grow domestic visitor numbers, new events that fill a potential gap in the market, or support for the development of new event strategies.

The key focus areas for this group include investment for:

  • Premier Events (new and existing)
  • Major events (new and existing)
  • Business Events (new and existing)
  • Eligible Community Events not otherwise funded
  • Developing Regional Event Strategies
  • Developing and supporting events across the calendar year and seasons including building capability.

Sub Total: $47.75million

TRENZ Conference: $2.00million

Fund management: $0.25million

Total fund: $50.00million