Can the Auckland Showgrounds be saved for local events?

Can the Auckland Showgrounds be saved for local events?

XPO Exhibitions, the organisers of The Food Show and many other industry events, has won round one in a legal battle to save the Auckland Showgrounds from coming under the control of an American film production company.

Managing Director of XPO Exhibitions Brent Spillane launched a High Court challenge against the Cornwall Park Trust Board to stop the historic showgrounds from effectively closing to the multi-million-dollar events and exhibitions industry.

The board intended to lease the site to Xytech for four years with a right of renewal for another two years.

Meanwhile, big industry events such as Foodtech Packtech and the Auckland Food Show were left without a venue and had to re-schedule their show dates.

Spillane argued before the High Court that the Cornwall Park Trust’s intention to lease the showgrounds to Auckland’s Xytech Studio Management, which in turn planned to lease it to an overseas film and TV production studio, would prevent the use of the showgrounds for major local events such as the New Zealand Boat Show, the Auckland Food Show, the Auckland Home Show, the Baby Show, Pet Expo and the Royal Easter Show.

Spillane’s lawyer pointed out that the eastern portion of the showgrounds (about 5ha of the 8.2ha site) was protected by the Cornwall Park Recreation and Endowment Act 1982 for the use of trade shows, exhibitions and entertainment.

Justice Peters agreed, ruling that the trust board must stick to the intended purpose of that portion when entering into any lease.

“Any filming or other activities on the eastern portion must be secondary to that use,” she said in her judgement.

Justice Peters also acknowledged the financial burden the trust board had suffered as a result of Covid-19. After scores of events and exhibitions were cancelled, the Auckland Agricultural Pastoral and Industrial Shows Board went into liquidation, unable to pay a major rent increase proposed by the trust board.

Peters’ final ruling is now on hold for a short period to give the trust board, Xytech and the events industry a chance to see if they can find a solution for the eastern portion provision.

A step in the right direction

Rebecca Stewart, General Manager, XPO Exhibitions said: “The favourable judgment from Justice Peters is a fantastic step in the right direction for the protection of the Auckland Showgrounds as the home of events and exhibitions. However, it’s certainly frustrating that the gates remain closed whilst thousands of businesses are missing out on the vital sales and marketing platforms provided by events, and tens of thousands of visitors are prevented from attending their favourite iconic shows that bring much needed entertainment and business trading. It’s a real kick in the guts to the events sector to have come through the pandemic, only to have our industry further stalled by the decisions of Cornwall Park Trust in their attempt to lease the Showgrounds to a film production company. We hope common sense will prevail soon so that the shows can go on!

“We are uncertain to the exact timeframe for a final ruling from Justice Peters, but remain confident that she has sent a clear message in her initial ruling to preserve the Showgrounds for their primary purpose of housing exhibitions and events, as they have done for over 150 years!”

Auckland Food Show postponed

The Food Show organisers commented: “It is with a heavy heart that we must announce The Auckland Food Show has been postponed until 2023, due to uncertainty with the Auckland Showgrounds. No one has fought harder than us to retain this venue for events, and we’re buoyed by the favourable judgment. However, at this time we’re unable to confirm exact timeframes for upcoming shows, which includes The Auckland Food Show. Unfortunately, no alternative venue in Auckland is suitable to house New Zealand’s largest food event.”

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