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Ashburton Event Centre bounces back, but ageing facility needs upgraded

Ashburton Event Centre bounces back, but ageing facility needs upgraded
Ashburton Event Centre manager, Roger Farr.

The Ashburton Event Centre has bounced back as people "want to be entertained again".

The last few reports from event centre manager Roger Farr to the Ashburton District Council have depicted an industry beset with Covid setbacks.

His latest update proved much more positive.

"It definitely has turned a corner and people do want to be entertained again, they do want to get out and meet socially and do all the things they used to do."

The event centre had a slow start to the financial year, but the last quarter had been "outstanding"

"We did finish the year off in a very nice position, which is unusual – it hasn’t been like that for a number of years."

The effects of Covid-19 restrictions are starting to fade and “the event cycle is starting to come back again”, Farr said.

“A lot of it is community events – that’s 62% of what we are doing, community performances or events.

The national touring events are still slow to return, with regional venues missing out, he said.

“The promoters are risk-averse, not wanting to risk coming to the region or touring in general.

“I think it’s probably going to be another 12 months before we see that side of the industry return.”

A steady flow of events meant the bar, catering and venue functions have improved.

With the events coming back, Farr’s biggest concern is filling crucial staffing vacancies.

“We lost two of our technicians over the last 12 months and we haven’t been able to replace them.

“Trying to find people to fill these roles at the moment is near nigh on impossible.

“I’ve been trying now for 12 months to find technicians and they are just not out there, and it’s not just us.”

There are at least six venues nationwide hunting for technicians, including Christchurch’s new convention centre Te Pae - “a brand new venue with all the flashiest gadgets and they can’t attract people”.

It’s a hangover from the Covid-era when people were forced to find other work due to the industry downturn, and haven’t come back, Farr said.

The event centre received $312,309 of council funding in 2022/23.

Ageing centre upgrades start to mount 

The Ashburton Event Centre is 15 years old and “a lot of stuff is starting to wear out and wear thin” Farr says.

Board chairperson George Brown said they would seek grants to cover an estimated $800,000 of upgrades and refurbishments in the next 2-3 years.

There was some spending in the past year on plant and equipment, while general repairs and maintenance has been ongoing, Farr said.

The facility has been trying to keep on top of maintenance and upgrades “so we don’t get to the point where it’s too big of a climb”.

A list has been developed, in consultation with industry professionals, on what the venue needed to remain relevant and capable of meeting industry standards.

Farr’s report outlined the focus has been on the refurbishment of public spaces, including wall and floor coverings, furniture, and house lighting.

They have identified essential technical infrastructure that requires replacement to future-proof the venue, including upgrading the PA sound system, the theatrical lighting and dimmer system.

“We have been planning towards this for the last three or four years.

“The financial side of it is something that still needs to be evaluated.

“A lot of the equipment is getting to an age where it does need to be upgraded."

By Jonathan Leask