The Showmen’s Guild fears the axing of the Royal Launceston Show will have a “domino effect” causing the decline of other events, including the Royal Hobart Show.
The Royal Agricultural Society’s president Jock Gibson announced the end of the show on Wednesday after Launceston City Council’s refusal to buy out the remainder of the society’s lease of the showgrounds at Inveresk.
A cloud has hung over the future of the show since October.
During that same month, the Devonport Show was also cancelled ending a 108-year run.
While costs have grown in recent times, crowd numbers at the Launceston show have dwindled, declining from about 30,000 several decades ago to a low 9,000 last year.
The Showmen’s Guild of Tasmania’s Diane Alexander said Launceston’s collapse could spell the “death” of other major shows.
“It could be the slow dying off of just about every show in the state and that would be a very bad thing because all these shows support their local economy,” she said.
“They are a parochial event. Your local show is your local show.
“What happens is 50 per cent of the rides are from the mainland, those members will likely not come to the state if the Launceston Royal Show ends, that could mean a loss of half the rides.”
The Royal Launceston Show has been running for 144 years and Mrs Alexander wants the Government to step in with funding.
“Unfortunately, at Inveresk we’ve not had the grounds nor the atmosphere to support the show … there has been consistent issues with the grounds and the request for land improvements have been knocked back,” she said.
Frank Badcock has been showing sheep every year at the Launceston show since 1964 and said he was sad, but resigned to the news.
“It’s something we’ve always done, the family has always done,” Mr Badcock said.
“I think most exhibitors at Launceston Show this year sort of suspected it would be the last show.”
Axing not surprising: Mayor
Launceston Mayor Albert Van Zetten said the public had voted with their feet.
“People are not going to shows like they used to,” he said.
“People do not seem to want to attend and we made it clear to them that we want to see the show is viable, is something that the … the community wants for us to support it.”
The show society owes the council just over $100,000.
“We do not want to put more ratepayers’ money into supporting something which an auditor’s said is not financially viable.”
The decision to cancel the show was not surprising given the show’s debt.
“It’s a stupid amount of money…. I would have thought the conversation about this should have happened five years ago,” he said.
Calls to rethink public holidays
The show’s demise has prompted a call to rethink Tasmania’s public holidays.
Launceston’s Chamber of Commerce said it was time to talk about the different public holidays across the state and what they could mean for business.
“As much as it is sad that the show is going, this is a chance to talk about how we address public holidays,” chief executive Neil Grosse said.
“We have a situation where we have four or five regional public holidays in the state and that’s bad for business, you’ve got half the state open for business and half the state closed.
“It would be better to rationalise those regional holidays into two state-wide holidays.”
Agfest’s Breanna House does not agree.
“It could be beneficial for our patrons, people visiting Agfest but it might not be beneficial for our exhibitors who then have to pay public holiday rates and their costs of attending our event would go up quite significantly,” Mrs House said.
“We haven’t been consulted on this issue at all yet.”