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Vikings at Armageddon Expo in Auckland. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
The organisers of the Auckland Armageddon Expo fear that the closure of the Auckland showgrounds could mean the closure of their event, forever.
The owner of the showgrounds, the Cornwall Park Trust Board, has been deciding on the site’s future since it closed on June 30. The board had proposed to lease the showgrounds to a film company, Auckland’s Xytech Studio Management, in favour of an events-industry proposal.
Armageddon Expo director Bill Geradts says his team are waiting for a resolution so they can host their biggest event of the year over Labour Weekend this October 21-24.
“We have spent every waking hour working on this, trying to find loopholes and ways to make this happen now so we can move forward,” Geradts said.
He maintained that if the venue ceases to be available as an event space, it could be a death knell for the Auckland Armageddon Expo.
“Without exaggeration, if we can’t use the showgrounds, our June show might well have been our last event in the region, which is a huge blow not only for us but for the events industry.”
His company had estimated, some years ago, that Armageddon Expo alone was worth $14 million to the Auckland economy, a figure that would have increased since then. The shows also ran in Wellington, Christchurch, Tauranga and Palmerston North but Auckland was by far the largest.
That economic benefit for Auckland was disappearing as event organisers transferred to other centres and smaller venues, he said.
“I’m surprised it’s not a hot-bed issue for the Auckland mayoral race to be honest, considering it feels like it’s going to go right down the gurgler.”
Last month, Brent Spillane, managing director of XPO Exhibitions, challenged that decision in the High Court, arguing that 5ha of the 8.2ha site was protected for the use of trade shows, exhibitions and entertainment under the Cornwall Park Recreation & Endowment Act 1982.
Justice Mary Peters agreed, saying that any filming or other activities on that portion should be secondary to that use.
Now, they are still left anxiously waiting for clarification to ensure any future lease does not cut out the events and exhibitions industry and for the Auckland Showgrounds court case will be resolved in time for their biggest event.
“We have been talking with all parties involved with the venue in the hope that we will be set, and in the end, it comes back to waiting for a High Court decision before we can get final permission,” Geradts said.
He said the court result could be released at any moment, and once they have it, they are ready to go.
“So, we have decided to roll the dice, eat a lot of extra costs, and light the beacons until hope is rekindled– there are a lot of people, including fans and exhibitors, who really want this event to happen.”
He says he will hold out until September 30 for the outcome, but can’t afford to stretch it out further.
“We’ve got a line-up of international celebrity guests to fly in, as well as thousands of dollars in advertising and a number of exhibitors relying on us for this event, and as much as we want to pull it off we can’t wait much longer.”