Events will play an important role in Macedon Ranges’ economic recovery from the impacts of coronavirus, according to the draft Macedon Ranges Event Strategy 2020-25.
The strategy suggests establishing ‘signature events’ of state or national interest and support for events that promote the shire’s ‘brand strengths’ such as arts, culture, nature and produce.
It also seeks to diversify the annual calendar of events to ‘fill the gaps’, increasing night, off-peak and multi-day events to encourage visitation, and to explore online opportunities.
While the strategy highlights opportunities, it also identifies ‘a major gap in high-quality, contemporary indoor event venues across the shire with a capacity to support larger events’ and ‘low level of commercial accommodation’ that reduces the ability of the shire to capture overnight visitation.
The shire’s visitor economy contributes $456 million in output and 2354 ongoing jobs, making it one of the most important industry sectors for the region.
It is supported by a range of successful established events such as major concerts at Hanging Rock, Woodend Winter Arts Festival, Macedon Ranges Wine and Food Budburst Festival and race days at Hanging Rock.
Events within the Macedon Ranges provide $20.6 million in economic benefit and contribute nearly 100 ongoing jobs. Of this, $8.03 million and 61 jobs are the direct effect of visitor expenditure.
While the full impact of COVID-19 remains uncertain, the strategy states “events will play an important part in revitalising the visitor economy through their immediate and longer-term economic benefits to the local economy”.
Forced to cancel this year’s festivities, Woodend Winter Arts Festival is just one event that has organisers now seeking new ways to plan.
Festival manager Irene O’Duffy said that like all local event organisers the Woodend Winter Arts Festival was “hoping it will be safe for the community to gather by the scheduled June 2021 event, however, realise that this might not be in the case”.
“As a not-for-profit organisation, we are thinking creatively about how to approach planning for our future events so that we can respond to recommendations by authorities,” Ms O’Duffy said.
“In any case, like other organisations, we will act responsibly when it comes to hosting events and value the support of our wider community, patrons, sponsors, donors and local and state government.”
A total of 108 annual events were identified across the Macedon Ranges Shire, comprising 44 tourism events and 64 community events.
Direct expenditure from tourism event visitors in the shire equates to about $8M annually, generated from 63,190 tourism event visitors.
In 2019, the 44 tourism events attracted approximately 131,500 attendees and half of these events were held in Kyneton and Woodend (11 events each).
Markets were highlighted as one of the biggest drivers of visitation, accounting for almost half the total annual tourism event attendees and providing $15.2M in total output.
Farmers markets have continued operating during the pandemic at a reduced capacity but some organisers have felt the need to cease operating temporarily. Markets have been permitted to continue as an essential service under Stage 3 restrictions.
The event strategy has been approved for public consultation.
CASH FOR EVENTS
Macedon Ranges Shire Council will inject $90,000 into events and festivals to help the region’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
An extra $15,000 was added to the $75,000 already set aside to boost events across the shire as they prepare to return in uncertain times.
“An additional $15,000, provided by council’s COVID-19 recovery plan, will assist event organisers deliver their events during the recovery phase when ticket sales and sponsorship remain uncertain,” said Nicole Pietruschka, council’s events and festival officer.
The funds will support 19 events including Kyneton Contemporary Art Triennial, The Garden Lovers Fair, Kyneton Daffodil and Arts Festival and Macedon Ranges Sustainable Living Festival.
Kyneton Daffodil and Arts Festival’s Margaret Dearricott said event organisers were looking forward to the return of local events when it was safe for people to gather.
“The festival is great for the morale of the town and bringing people to the area but it’s more important for our communities to remain safe. We have to act together and do the best that we can,” she said.
“Although we can’t have the festival this year, the daffodils will still come out and we are hoping that people will bring some cheer by creating ‘iso scarecrows’.”