The future of this year’s Floriade hangs in the balance amid COVID-19 lockdowns in three Australian states – NSW, Victoria and South Australia – and the clock counting down to when the ACT Government will need to make a decision on whether the event goes ahead, or, if it does, in what form.
The COVID-19 pandemic limited the annual spring floral festival to the suburbs in 2020, but the money-spinning event was due to return to Commonwealth Park, where the traditional million bulbs have been planted, in September this year.
But with ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr already saying the NSW lockdown is unlikely to be lifted before the end of winter, a cloud remains over the event.
An ACT Government spokesperson said Events ACT is looking at all possibilities and keeping all parties up to date on the evolving situation.
“Considering the uncertainty of the current COVID-19 situation and restrictions on movement across borders, Events ACT continues to engage in an extensive scenario planning process for Floriade and NightFest,” said the spokesperson.
“This process takes into account the current situation, potential changes in COVID-19 restrictions, and the impact these may have on delivering the events.”
The spokesperson said Events ACT is talking with Floriade’s commercial operators, vendors, stall holders, suppliers and entertainers to determine the potential impacts of each scenario and the critical timeframes for making a decision.
“Information about arrangements for Floriade will be made available in coming weeks as this work is completed and the potential impact of COVID-19 restrictions in other states on the event is clearer,” said the spokesperson.
A decision to cancel the event would be a big blow to the ACT’s already hard-hit tourism industry, but also to the community after what is now a grim, grey winter.
Depending on the restrictions, the ACT Government may have the option to run a scaled-back event without some of the interstate operators and entertainment, considering the flowers will be there.
One saving grace is that about half of the attendance at Floriade is from within the immediate Canberra region.
But it remains a nerve-wracking situation for Canberrans, with COVID-19 having leaked into the regions.
The ACT has gone without a COVID-19 case for more than a year, but there have been exposure sites closer to home in Goulburn and the Orange area, and on Tuesday a case was found in Cootamundra.
‘The Future of Flowers’ is the theme for this year’s Floriade event, which is set to run from 11 September until 10 October.
The government has also continued last year’s popular Floriade Reimagined suburban showings of community plantings.
Floriade’s tourism potential had been boosted by Jetstar’s announcement of a new Canberra-to-Brisbane route from 2 September, but travel appears far from most people’s minds at present.
In 2019, a record number of more than half a million people went through the gates at Floriade, which had an economic impact of $44.7 million with 49.4 per cent of visitors attending the event from interstate or overseas.