Thermal Explorer Highway Regional Events Fund

$3m support for events in the Thermal Explorer region.

The Thermal Explorer Regional Events Fund includes the Waikato, Rotorua, Taupō and Ruapehu regions and is managed collectively through the Event Investment Panel (eight representatives from the four regions).

A total of 34 events being staged across the Waikato, Rotorua, Taupō and Ruapehu regions will receive nearly $3 million following the announcement of a second tranche of funding by the Thermal Explorer Regional Events Fund.

The latest allocation of $1.3 million for 19 events follows last year’s round of funding of $1.6 million for 15 events.

Events receiving funding support are a mixture of new and existing covering diverse interest areas such as business, sport, fitness, trail running, cars, music, and culture.

In total, the events are predicted to attract over 300,000 people, with two-thirds being visitors from outside each host region. Some events have three-year funding agreements while others have received one-year investment to boost their development.

The support allows the funded events to be developed, positioned and marketed to be or become an iconic or anchor event for the host region, growing exponentially each event, attracting out-of-region visitation, encouraging economic benefit and boosting capability in our events sector.

The focus will now be on developing events sector capability across the Thermal Explorer regions.

Event funding recipients 2022 round:

  • Embracing Change - 12–14 July 2022 - Rotorua
  • New Zealand Geothermal Week - 25–29 July 2022 - Taupō
  • New Zealand Fitness Festival - 21–23 October 2022 - Waikato
  • Sika Show - 29–30 October 2022 - Waikato
  • Waitomo Trail Run - 5 November 2022 - Waikato
  • Lake Taupō Cycle Challenge – Gravel Grind - 25–26 November 2022 - Taupō
  • New Zealand Blues and BBQ Festival - 25–27 November 2022 - Rotorua
  • Digital Health Week 2022 - 5–8 December 2022 - Rotorua
  • A Summer Evening with… - December 2022/January 2023 (TBC) - Taupō
  • Indigenous All Stars v Maori All Stars Game - 11 February 2023 - Rotorua
  • Kotahitanga Festival 2023 - 11–12 February 2023 - Ruapehu
  • Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival - 24 February – 5 March 2023 - Waikato
  • Sky Waka Vertical Challenge - 10-12 March 2023 - Ruapehu
  • Autorama ’23 - 17–19 March 2023 - Waikato
  • Raetihi Gutbuster - 25 March 2023 - Ruapehu
  • Festival of Golf - September 2023 (TBC) - Taupō
  • Legend of the Peaks - December 2023 (TBC) - Rotorua

*Two further funded events will be announced at a later date.

Please click here to view the 2021 event funding recipients.

Important links and information
Thermal Explorer Highway Regional Investment Plan For more information including an overview of the Thermal Explorer Highway Regional Investment Plan
Timeline and next steps
Thursday 24 November 2022 Thermal Explorer REF Networking:
  • Time: 4:00 – 6:00pm
  • Where: The Park Hotel Ruapehu, National Park
  • Details: Networking event with the Thermal Explorer REF team and events industry professionals.
  • Register here
Thursday 15 December 2022

Thermal Explorer REF Workshops:

  • Time: 9:30am – 12:00pm
  • Where: Hobbiton™ Movie Set, The Hub
  • Details: Workshop including an update on Thermal Explorer REF, industry presentations, networking and more.
  • Register here
April and August 2023

Thermal Explorer REF Roadshow events:

  • Roadshows across the Thermal Explorer region
  • Details: A series of events will be held in Waikato, Rotorua, Taupō and Ruapehu with a focus on capability building initiatives. Registration details will be updated here as dates and venues are finalised.

For more information

Lead Entity for the Thermal Explorer Highway Regional Events Fund (REF):
Hamilton & Waikato Tourism

If you would like to register to receive updates and information about the Thermal Explorer Highway REF, please subscribe here


The Thermal Explorer Regional Events Fund is part of the $50 million Regional Events Fund announced by the New Zealand Government in September 2020 as a result of COVID-19. The purpose of the fund is to stimulate domestic tourism and travel between regions through hosting of events, which is intended to replace expenditure from international tourists. Please visit for further information.

The purpose for the Thermal Explorer Regional Events Fund is a contestable fund that will be utilised to focus on developing, securing or enhancing new and existing events to become long term sustainable “iconic” or “anchor” events for the regions; and to support capability development of the event ecosystem in the four regions of the Thermal Explorer area.