Media Release 17 January 2005 


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Event Management by Degrees


Christchurch has New Zealand's largest indoor arena, the 8,888-seat capacity Westpac Centre, which hosts trade shows, exhibitions, sporting and musical entertainment as well as special events and gala dinners. The Christchurch Convention Centre is NZ's largest and only purpose-built international standard convention venue and the 32-year old Town Hall is the city's premier venue for the performing arts. All three venues are owned by the Christchurch City Council and managed by NCC (NZ) Ltd, a private venue management company that has been an initiator and strong supporter of venue management industry based training. Both NCC (NZ) Ltd and the Christchurch City Council have been key supporters of the country's top graduate course in Event Management at CPIT and are satisfied employers of two of its programme graduates.


Now entering its seventh year the graduate Diploma in Event Management offered by CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology) is boosting numbers as students find ready employment in a growing sector and the course's credibility continues to build. And that is due, in no small measure, to companies such as venue manager NCC (NZ) Ltd which provides internships, mentors, tutors, and site visits as well as jobs.

Course coordinator Peter Burley acknowledges the single greatest strength of the course is its high 65% industry content, achieved through 23-week internships - and he happily tells the story against himself about how that happened!


"I was having a meeting with former mayor Vicki Buck and NCC's Mike Kelly about the course content. I suggested 40% industry-based, and they looked at me and said no. I then offered 50% and got the same reply. With some hesitation and misgiving I said 'what about 60%?'. Maybe, they said, but see if you can get it higher - and that's how we ended up with the 65%. But it's proved a tremendous move, and a very significant factor in the very high placement rate we're getting for graduates."


"Our key tools are our 2-4 tutors, 20 industry intern providers, 30 industry advisers who come in as expert and specialist guest speakers and three days at the venues managed by NCC (NZ) Ltd. We really are connected to industry and that's what has the greatest appeal to potential employers. It doesn't have a negative impact on the academic content and degree subjects are taught in three week- blocks," Peter Burley said.


The course started with 18 students in 1999. The Christchurch Convention Centre, New Zealand's only international purpose-built convention venue, was officially opened in November 1997. The Westpac Centre for Sport and Entertainment was opened a year later in 1998 and is still the country's largest indoor arena. On a wider scale, there was a demand for trained and practical young professionals as the event management industry was rapidly developing within larger local authorities, sports and charitable organizations. More event management companies were being formed. Many jobs were redefined as their core business within media and corporate activity became increasingly events-based.


Peter Burley and colleague Anne Hindson, with Masters Degrees in Recreation from Victoria and Lincoln Universities respectively, had experience in running major festivals funded by local authorities. Peter also worked with circus arts and from that background in event management had to be persuaded that Mike Kelly's agenda for including public assembly facility management in an events management programme was appropriate. Mike Kelly had not long been in Christchurch after an international career in venue management and brought new experience that had to be sold to the local community. Mike did persuade Peter to include elements of the then relatively new area of public assembly management - and what has emerged is a generic event management course, creating a substantial and specialist industry qualification that gets graduates into serious employment. The only other approximate New Zealand courses are Auckland University of Technology's (AUT) vocationally focused one year course, and the Diploma in Leisure Events Management at Lincoln University.


Most of the students come to the CPIT course with first degrees in commerce, marketing or business - and most are women. In 2005 the course is expanding by 25% to cater for more students undertaking distance learning. One of the factors limiting growth is the need for pastoral care to ensure high quality internships.


"Each year we place 18 - 20 students with an events organisation for 30 hours a week for 23 weeks, which adds up to several years' full time equivalent experience," Peter Burley said. "We have some high profile internship providers, including Montana Winter Carnival, Christchurch Arts Festival Trust, Festival of Flowers, Festival of Romance and the World of Wearable Art. These all offer rich work experiences for our students. Some employers, such as NCC, offer specialist venue opportunities unique in New Zealand."


About half the interns go on to full time employment with their intern provider which includes local authorities, conference companies, pure event management companies, the private venue management companies (such as NCC (NZ) Ltd), sports organisations (such as Canterbury Tennis and NZ Cricket), international providers (such as Challenge Events which runs logistics for the Coast to Coast), some not-for-profit and fundraising agencies, other tertiary institutions and hotels.


There are plenty of opportunities. Most of the jobs, 80 - 90 a year, emerge in event management, compared with 40 - 50 jobs a year in venue management. Emerging event management employers are in the media, conference and tourism sectors.


"The New Zealand experience is that bigger jobs tend to be within local authorities, who provide a high percentage of larger public events and festivals. Much of the domestic events industry is public sector-driven and that's relatively unusual on an international comparison. There are also top jobs within the public assembly, venue and event management industries."


The 30 industry advisers have specialist expertise and knowledge so interns have the privilege of direct learning and insight into industry specifics built up over many years by the mentors, e.g. traffic management and outdoor event logistics, theming, sport event marketing and fireworks. Interns have access to high level logistics, e.g. NCC's Cathy Hemsworth's experience as Chef de Mission for 2005 NZ Athens Olympics Paralympics Team. They are also exposed to global industry leaders, such as Mike Kelly, Past President of the International Association of Assembly Managers, the largest global facilities management organization, and Past Chair of the Asia Pacific Exhibition and Convention Council, Asia's largest exhibition and convention venue association.


NCC (NZ) Ltd has a close relationship with the course and there's strong competition to get an internship with the company because of the opportunity to work with international clients at very busy venues hosting a wide variety of events, from scientific meetings to sporting and entertainment spectaculars. David Boyte is the current intern. With a commerce degree he was looking for a higher qualification that would give him entrée to an exciting, dynamic and variable industry that he could develop an international career with. So far, he loves every minute of it.


Cathy Hemsworth, Sales & Marketing Director for NCC (NZ) Ltd, said their diversity attracted students. "We work with complex international meetings, the largest trade shows, world class entertainers, a multitude of special, sporting and civic events as well as having a very busy calendar of resident performing arts company productions. NCC is the largest event producer in South Island, the largest ticketing company and arguably the largest caterer through their association with Spotless Services Ltd. We also have the most sophisticated venue management software in ConcentRics so interns really get to see something of everything with us!"


"In most cases intern placement providers are in the actual event management business - and as such are NCC customers. Thus our interns have the benefit of seeing both sides of an event and this allows them to decide which side of the fence they would prefer, or if, in fact, they would like to be in technical services for example."


Apart from offering internships, NCC (NZ) Ltd supports courses by providing senior members of staff to lecture in their areas of expertise, the opportunity to visit venues and often to see a set-up for a major event.


 "More venues have come on board as they've seen and judged for themselves the benefits of having students who do a theoretical course but also apply themselves hands-on. These practical stages give both student and provider the opportunity to really check out the fit. In our case, we've employed three graduate students full time and others on a part time basis," Cathy Hemsworth said.


NCC currently employs two CPIT graduates - Helen Glengarry as Events & Projects Manager who completed the course three years ago and Jenny Lysaght, Event Coordinator. Jenny did her internship with Canterbury Tennis and is now engaged in her first management position. Helen did the CPIT course to gain a professional qualification, and to gain the basics and theory of running events from start to finish, including marketing, logistics, administration, safety and project management skills.


Helen's internship was at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch and then she joined NCC as an Event Coordinator for a year before her appointment as projects Events Manager with responsibilities for special projects, such as the Mercedes Tennis Challenge with John McEnroe vs Pat Cash Exhibition Match in February 2004 and the upcoming ASB Tennis Classic with Marina Navratilova vs Monica Seles in February 2005.


NCC is a strong proponent of staff being engaged with and making a contribution to the community. Helen now contributes her expertise in sports event management as a mentor to Lincoln University students studying for a Diploma in Parks & Recreation, in a return to the university where she gained a degree in marketing before working for Telecom Yellow Pages, then travelling overseas for five years, during which time a highlight was working as PA for actress Vanessa Redgrave for a year.



Peter Burley pays additional tribute to Mike Kelly, who has been the most positive supporter from the beginning, and who brought an international perspective to the course from the outset. ""We've had real synergy between NCC and CPIT. NCC has actively worked to ensure the quality of the course and has been very involved from the very early days



·         This is not the only partnership NCC (NZ) Ltd has with CPIT. Since 2000, world famous Boaters Restaurant at the Christchurch Town Hall has been a training restaurant for CPIT School of Food and Hospitality students. Restaurant manager Rose Young said it offered many advantages to students, including the high profile public location and the need for a wide range of dining style experiences including pre-theatre dinners for patrons attending shows at the Auditorium or James Hay Theatre.





For more information


CPIT Diploma in Event Management, Peter Burley on phone (+64 3) 940 8285 or Mobile or


NCC (NZ) Ltd, Executive Director Mike Kelly on phone (+64 3) 363 3350 or



Christchurch Town Hall makes Top 50

in worldwide theatre venues in 2004 for  ticket sales

-         the only venue in Australasia


It's official - we are a great entertainment centre!


The Christchurch Town Hall is the only performing arts or theatre venue in Australasia to make it onto the Top 50 Theatre Venues for 2004 year end worldwide ticket sales list compiled by international trade journal POLLSTAR.


It came in at No 49 with 76,008 ticket sales. The top selling venue was The Colosseum at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas with 778,977 tickets.


Mike Kelly, Executive Director of venue manager NCC (NZ) Ltd, said he was absolutely delighted with the result, especially as the Auditorium has 2534 seats and the James Hay Theatre has just 1006 seats, making it a relatively small venue by international standards.


"Pollstar is the authoritative industry trade publication so the entertainment industry sits up and takes notice when a venue like this makes it into the big time listing," Mike Kelly said.


"The Westpac Centre missed out on a Pollstar Arena Rankings but with a 8888-seat capacity it finds it difficult to compete with the far larger 20,000 seat arenas in major cities which can support multiple concert dates."


"However, the New Zealand exclusive Andrea Bocelli single concert on 15 September 2004, featuring Hayley Westenra, sold 8,058 tickets ($US1.119 million in sales) which ranked it 72nd in the world, although we do lose something in the fiscal translation. We were edged out by the Amsterdam Arena (14,000 seats) with two concerts with gross sales of $1.147 mill and the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre (10,939 seats) also with a double concert with gross sales at $1.166 mil (10,939 seats)."

The Christchurch Town Hall also made the Venues Today Top 5 rankings for venues with 5000 seats or fewer, for the period 16 November - 15 December with 24 shows, attendances of 20,637 and ticket sales of $909,456. Again, it was the only venue in Australasia to make the cut. Performances during this time included Saturday Night Fever, Last Night of the Proms, The Chieftains, Christchurch Symphony, Town Hall Organ Concert, Finn Brothers, Peter Powers, Messiah, and Yulia Townsend.


Mike Kelly predicts 2005 will see ticket sales for the venues surpass $10 million gross for the first time.


"The year starts with an incredible list of international acts coming to both the Town Hall and Westpac Centre - Rod Stewart, Cher, Neil Diamond, Velvet Revolver, Crusty Demons, Mark Knofler, R.E.M., Norah Jones, Moody Blues, Cleo Lane and others still to be confirmed."


"We've also got the excellent concerts presented by the resident performing arts companies, and they are world-class too - Canterbury Opera, Christchurch Symphony, Christchurch City Choir, Chamber Music New Zealand, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Showbiz Christchurch and the Town Hall Pipe Organ Concert Series."


Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will be presenting a recital to a sold out house with Brian Castles-Onion on 29 January in the Auditorium.


"We've got entertainment across the full spectrum - from ballet to extreme motor sports to the great tennis we'll see from Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles early February."


"Every year I warn people to plan their entertainment budget based on what's on show in the venues we manage because there is so much on offer - and again this year it's clear that Christchurch will be almost spoiled for choice," Mike Kelly said.



For more information please contact Mike Kelly or Cathy Hemsworth, Director of Sales & Marketing, at NCC (NZ) on phone