Marlborough Wine & Food Festival has been cancelled for the first time in its 36-year history.
Festival bosses have today announced the iconic festival will not go ahead as planned to help protect the 2021 harvest from the threat of Covid-19.
Marlborough Winegrowers Board Chair Tom Trolove says the decision has been a difficult one.
“It’s been a really tough decision, and we realise this will impact businesses in our community.
“But the board was clear that in these unprecedented times, it had to prioritise the safety of the harvest.
“The Marlborough Wine & Food Festival celebrates our industry on the cusp of our harvest, and that’s a risk,” he says.
A report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research found that the wine industry made up 19 per cent of Marlborough’s GDP.
The industry employs 4,850 people in Marlborough and could not be put at risk Tom says.
“This industry is absolutely vital to Marlborough’s economic health.
“So, no matter how much we love our iconic wine festival, with all its camaraderie and celebration, we cannot let it jeopardise our industry, or indeed our community.”
“Deciding early to cancel the festival was important for event partners, festival organiser Wine Marlborough, and also the event audience, many of whom travel from other parts of the country to attend,” he says.
Around 8000 people celebrate at the annual festival each year at Brancott Estate.
But worries about Covid-19 means organisers have had to pull the plug.
“The past month has been a reminder that the world is in a time of uncertainty, and New Zealand’s situation can change at any time.
“What is certain to us is that we have to do all we can to protect the health of our people, and the economic lifeblood of this region,” Tom says.
Marlborough’s wine industry makes up 77.7 per cent of the national grape harvest, and accounts for at least 80 per cent of all exports, which are currently worth $1.923 billion a year.
General admission tickets were due to go on sale on October 1, which also made an early decision important.
“It may not be a good time for 8000 people to gather on a vineyard site to celebrate together with over 40 wineries, but it’s a fantastic time to visit Marlborough’s cellar doors and get an extraordinary insight into what makes this region’s wines amazing,” Tom says.
Super Early Bird ticket holders will be offered a 100 per cent refund.
Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says the cancellation would be a blow to Marlborough’s events calendar,
“But there’s no doubt that the wine industry’s main objective is to harvest its grapes in optimal condition and make the wine that helps put Marlborough on the global stage”.
Festival Committee Chair Tracy Johnston says the committee was disappointed the event was not going ahead but believed it is the right decision.
“The Marlborough Wine & Food Festival will return as a proud and iconic event for Marlborough when it can be delivered without putting our industry and community at risk.”
Wine Marlborough General Manager Marcus Pickens says the committee and organising team put their heart and soul into the event every year.
“It’s gutting that we can’t do that for February 2021, but we fully support the board’s decision.”
“Wine Marlborough’s top priority is protecting the reputation of our extraordinary wine region, and right now that means doing all we can to help reduce the risk of holding a large event like this before harvest.”