Hosting Major International events in New Zealand

‘Hosting Major International Events in New Zealand’ Presented by Kylie Hawker-Green, Manager, New Zealand Major Events. 

A presentation from New Zealand Major Events began with words of welcome, in Maori, to the session, and of thanks, in English, for the hospitality received from the International Sports Convention and its London audience.

Cultural exchange flows through the events strategy in Aoteraroa New Zealand and that can deliver some unexpected ironies. ISC delegates received gifts of chocolate – a gesture the organisation also extended to its hosts on a recent visit to Switzerland.

As manager Kylie Hawker-Green explained, New Zealand Major Events is a government agency working out of the country’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Its responsibilities lie across four key areas: prospecting, where it identifies potential event opportunities and the cities that could host them; dispensation of a major events fund to support organising bodies from planning to delivery and evaluation; coordination between 26 different branches of government and the management of an Act of Parliament for major events; and the operation of a specialised major events team where bespoke capabilities are required.

But it is the values by which major events in New Zealand are run that are just as important. Developed during a period of review in the Covid-enforced shutdown, these draw on local culture and tradition to project the best of the nation overseas while sustaining a meaningful impact at home. Manaaki refers to warm welcomes and fostering relationships based on respect, care and reciprocity. Later this year, New Zealand will co-host the Fifa Women’s World Cup with Australia. When it staged the draw for the tournament in October, it treated over 400 delegates from Fifa and the 32 competing teams to a 45-minute reception, with cultural leaders offering tributes.

At the tournament itself, the opening ceremony in Auckland and the closing ceremony in Sydney will both reflect aspects of both Indigenous Aboriginal and Maori culture. Tiaki is the drive to care for people, places and the future of the planet. For Hawker-Green, this is best encapsulated in a partnership with SailGP, a global inshore sailing league with its manufacturing base in Auckland.

Working with rights holders, New Zealand Major Events aims to deliver cleaner, more environmentally responsible sporting occasions and by that measure, SailGP’s ‘climate positive’ goals are perfectly aligned. The league takes an open-source approach to competition data and also monitors its environmental impact across every available metric, rewarding the best-performing team at the end of the year with a donation to the climate charity of their choice.

Pono means acting with integrity, honesty and transparency. Hawker-Green illustrated this with a video of rugby player Ruby Tui leading fans in a celebration of New Zealand’s victory in last year’s Women’s Rugby World Cup – making the moment about the nation, not herself and her teammates.

Across 2022 and 2023, New Zealand has hosted or will host three of the biggest women’s team sports events on the planet, having also juggled pandemic health protocols to put on the ICC Women’s Cricket World Cup last March and April. But those events were delivered with an honest understanding of the need to keep driving women’s sport further.

There has been a “massive uptake in reporting of women’s sport in mainstream media” – up from 7 per cent to 40 per cent of coverage in New Zealand – while legacy investment will aim to “create opportunities for those sports in particular [for women and girls] to play the game their way”.

The social focus of the major events strategy will begin shifting from female sport to engaging young people in underrepresented communities. And the fourth value pillar for New Zealand Major Events, fittingly enough, is Potikitanga: the curious, ingenious and adventurous spirit of the youngest child.

The country’s stunning landscapes have long made it a beacon for action sports fans. This is exemplified by a multi-year partnership with Crankworx, a North American-based downhill mountain biking event with spectacular action and youth-focused brand activations.

Bringing elements of those four values into every event, Hawker-Green says, helps to create “something magical” but it also expresses how the country is harnessing its potential while taking inspiration from its past.

Hawker-Green brought her presentation towards its close with a New Zealand Tourism video that told the story of modern New Zealand, showing off not just its astounding natural beauty and tradition but its ability to ‘innovate with care’.

Creating events in that spirit, with a firm grasp of their economic and social contribution, is at the core of the Major Events New Zealand mission.