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Convention bureau ‘gets in behind’ to bring Young Farmers event to Hamilton

The Waikato might seem the natural choice for one of the year’s biggest farming events, but NZ Young Farmers’ former Events Manager Staci Barnette says it was the support of the region’s convention bureau that made the decision to bring the FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final to Hamilton an easy one.

“It’s more than just the expertise, it’s the hospitality,” Ms Barnette says. “When you have a team like the convention bureau that’s excited for your event to come to their area, and they really see it as an opportunity to showcase the best of their region, then that brings a whole other dimension to the planning.” 

More than 1,000 people are expected to descend on Claudelands Showgrounds in July 2024 for the Grand Final. Seven regional finalists will be tested on a range of skills – from fencing and operating machinery, through to animal health, pasture management and irrigation.   

“It’s a chance for NZ Young Farmers members to challenge themselves, have a bit of fun and show their fellow club members what they’re made of.” 

Ms Barnette says working with Mighty Waikato Business Events to bring the event to Hamilton has been a “breath of fresh air”. 

“When we bring 1,000 people to a location, we need accommodation, we need transportation, we need easy access from the airport, so Hamilton really just ticked all the boxes. 

“You have a selection of venues and suppliers. There’s Uber and taxis and plenty of parking at the venue. 

“This is going to be the first time we’ve had the majority of our events in one venue. The convenience of that for our volunteers, staff, contestants, sponsors and attendees – for all of our stakeholders – is huge.” 

Ms Barnette met members of the Mighty Waikato Business Events convention bureau at an industry trade show and followed up with an RFP that identified what they were looking for and their dates. The bureau came back to them, set-up visits with venues and suppliers and it all took off from there. 

“Initially we really leaned on them to check availability, share their expertise, their knowledge of venues and suppliers. There’s a lot that goes into an event like this – we need traffic management, we need entertainment, decor, production, all sorts. The convention bureau is a neutral party, they don’t have commissions, they’re purely looking out for you and your needs. 

“I really appreciated that warmth and the sense of the bureau really just having my back. They were able to communicate what we needed to the venues and the suppliers before our visit, so everyone we went to see was already familiar with the event, what our needs were, how many people, what our budget was – all the really key things - and that just streamlines the whole process.” 

Ms Barnett says a large number of farmers descending on the city won’t go unnoticed, with the majority coming from outside the region. Last year’s event in Timaru, saw approximately 200 locals in attendance, with the other 800 or so traveling from outside Canterbury. 

“Our contestants come from regions throughout the country and they bring a lot of support with them.”

And while the Waikato is famed for its pastoral farming, particularly dairy, Ms Barnett says the event is an opportunity for the region to showcase the breadth of its farming expertise. 

“It’s not just dairy as most people think, there's also seafood and horticulture - there are a lot of other industries within the food and fibre sector that are located in the area. 

“These events are also an opportunity for our members in the regions to learn about putting on events – what's involved in the planning, the execution, things like strategy, educational outcomes, health and safety and budgets.” 

She says the event is incredibly community focused and often attracts local school children, exposing them to the possibilities of a career in farming. 

“It’s a farming-based event but we also look at it from an entertainment, educational and community perspective for attendees.” 

Looking to future events, Ms Barnett says having it in Hamilton is going to be hard to compete with.  

“The farming connection, the central location ... but also the support that I’ve had from the bureau and the venues to bring the event there. It’s been top notch.”