Threats of the coronavirus spread haven’t put off around 1000 hardy anglers from around the country lining up along Ninety Mile Beach today to compete in the world’s largest snapper surfcasting event.
Despite a Government directive banning gatherings of 500 people or more, organisers of the Snapper Bonzana have decided to push ahead with the five-day event.
Organiser John Stewart says they sought Government advice and there was no concern around people spread out in the water over 23 kilometres of beach.
The sell-out event has had no cancellations with only 20 of the 1000 competitors yet to have arrived.
Last night’s briefing saw more than 500 competitors gather at Waipapakauri stage, but organisers say that won’t happen again.
“The timing of yesterday’s Government announcement was terrible. It came at 4.30 and the briefing was due to start at 5pm. It was impossible to cancel,” Mr Stewart says.
Organisers have now changed the rules to meet Government regulations.
The daily prize giving won’t be compulsory for prize winners to attend. It will be live streamed on social media and prizes can be collected the next day. Mr Stewart believes that should reduce the numbers of attendees by a third.
He also says they’ll have security counting people as they come through the gates, and they may look at restricting the event to anglers only to keep numbers below 500.
“Look, it’s really disappointing. It’s going to be really quiet - a lot less entertaining - and the store operators won’t do as well,” Mr Stewart says.
The annual event typically pumps $2 million dollars in the local economy, which is already reeling from the drought.