Thermal Explorer Highway Regional Events Fund

Event funding support and capability building 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 52* events being staged across the Waikato, Rotorua, Taupō and Ruapehu regions have been offered funding.

  • Waikato – 21* events
  • Rotorua – 17* events
  • Taupō – 10* events
  • Ruapehu – 3 events
  • Multiple regions – 1 event

*Two events pending announcement (Waikato – 1 event; Taupō – 1 event)

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 approximately 370,000 people, with two-thirds being visitors from outside each host region. Some events have three-year funding agreements while others received one-year investment to boost their development.

The Panel are also focussing on developing events sector capability across the Thermal Explorer regions with a series of roadshow events held in 2023 and being planned for 2024. For more information please review the below important links and timeline.

Important links and information
Event funding recipients
View the 2021, 2022 and 2023 event funding recipients.
Timeline and next steps
Thursday 30 November 2023 (Hamilton)
Course start date ASAP (Online)

St John Mental Health First Aid course:

  • The Thermal Explorer REF is fully subsidising a limited number of St John Mental Health First Aid courses (online or in-person).
  • Numbers limited to 40 people (maximum 2 per organisation).
  • Course delivery method is subject to availability.
  • Register your interest HERE
March and April 2024

Thermal Explorer REF Roadshow events:

  • Join the Thermal Explorer REF team at the March / April 2024 Roadshow.
  • Details: Workshops 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.