he inaugural Polo in the Bay is expected to bring the ultimate summer vibes to the region with all the food, drinks and polo action on January 22, 2022.
The event will feature some of New Zealand’s most talented polo players going to head-to-head in their provincial colours with a fresh polo format that brings you closer to the action with a faster pace, smaller field, and more relaxed rules.
While the original event was scheduled to be held in November this year, due to Covid restrictions, the decision was made to postpone the event to January.
Local organiser John Guise says the event is for everyone, even those with zero knowledge of polo.
“When we created this event, we wanted the polo itself to be enjoyable for anyone, so that someone with zero polo knowledge could enjoy it.
“If you went to a traditional polo game, it may require some knowledge to follow it.”
“We have a great emcee and experienced polo commentator who will work hand in hand. Our emcee is representing those who know nothing about polo in the crowd, and tying it all back to what is happening in the middle.
“So it’s something you could walk in having never seen a polo ball being hit before and you’ll grasp the concept pretty quick.”
John explains that the event offers unique, fast-paced entertainment that is more interactive than a day at the races.
“At the races you might watch from a grandstand and see a horse and a jockey fly past in the distance. Polo in the Bay will be up close and personal.
“On the side-lines it will be like a mini food and wine festival with food trucks wrapped around the polo. We are trying to do something fresh – it’s not the red carpet and caviar experience like some people might expect – it will be quite a casual and relaxed experience.”
Polo was chosen as the focus of the event due to its uniqueness, particularly in New Zealand.
“We looked at entertainment options that we thought might have a point of difference. There are only a few polo events around New Zealand, while in Australia they’ve really been taking off, so we felt like it was a good fit for the Bay of Plenty.
“For the majority of people we felt like they wouldn’t have seen a concept like this before, it’s something new and fresh, and something that the region can own.”
As a truly destination event, Polo in the Bay will celebrate the region with local partners and suppliers such as Mills Reef, LL Hire and Paramount Hire and local vendors like Rice Rice Baby and Johneys Dumplings.
“It’s a new event that the region knows it will own into the future,” says John. “It’s one that will hold a lot of opportunities for local businesses to get involved and with its usual position at the end of November, it’s filling a space on the calendar before the peak season, when there are fewer major events.”
“It’s also an event branded to the Bay of Plenty – the whole concept was designed to celebrate the Bay of Plenty.
“When we hold the event again in November 2022, we hope to expand it from a single day event to a multi-day festival with live entertainment and satellite events around the region.”
Polo in the Bay is supported by two-year funding through the Regional Events Fund.
The Government introduced the REF to support the tourism sector during the Covid-19 pandemic while New Zealand’s border remains closed to international visitors.
The aim of the contestable $500,000 REF allocation, which is overseen by Tourism Bay of Plenty, is to invest in events that will drive significant regional visitation, particularly during the shoulder seasons.
The fund was boosted by a further $200,000 allocated from the region’s community-based trust TECT.
John says the funding makes a huge difference for the event in terms of its growth and ability to support local.
“We have a long-term plan to grow the event, and this funding makes a few things happen that may have been out of reach in the first two to three years – it essentially fast tracks the evolution of the event.
“It means that we can put more emphasis on using local suppliers which is really important – we all benefit if those dollars are spent locally. Event organisers and event suppliers have suffered over the last two years with delays to events, so this goes back into the local economy which is the whole point of it.
“Long term we are also looking to grow Polo in the Bay into a three-day festival. Once we have a programme over three days, visitors have more motivation to stay an extra night – that’s where the opportunity is long-term. It’s bringing more people to our region to spend and put back into our local economy.
“With this support that’s been announced it means we can do that sooner; we don’t have to rely on organic growth as there’s a bit of support behind us.”
TECT Trustee Mark Arundel says the local trust is delighted its funding can support the event in both January and November 2022.
“Having that guaranteed funding support for multiple years means event organisers can invest more in their ideas and bring them to life without waiting for the event to evolve.
“Polo in the Bay will provide a unique, new entertainment experience that will bring visitors to our region, boost our local economy, and start a new tradition in the Bay of Plenty that shines a light on our region for its growing international sporting and recreational profile, with dining hospitality to match.”
Oscar Nathan, General Manager of Tāpoi Te Moananui ā Toi | Tourism Bay of Plenty, says it will be all happening on January 22 with the very first REF events, Polo in the Bay and the Mount Festival of Multisport, both taking place on the same day.
“We’re pleased to welcome an innovative event like Polo in the Bay to our region and we love that it’s being deliberately designed to appeal to a wide audience.
“It’s one of 15 events that have secured REF funding for the next three years, and we look forward to the huge flow-on effect this will create for accommodation providers, hospitality, retail, and tourism activity operators.”