Media Releases

07 July 2022: $3m support for events in Thermal Explorer region

A total of 34 events being staged across the Waikato, Rotorua, Taupō and Ruapehu regions will receive nearly $3 million over the next three years 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.

The Thermal Explorer Regional Events Fund was set up by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to help support and provide new domestic visitation opportunities for the events and tourism sectors which have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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 34 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.

As lead entity for the eight-member Thermal Explorer Event Investment Panel, Nicola Greenwell from Hamilton & Waikato Tourism, says each of the four regions and the organisers of the events are immensely excited about the opportunity that the funding presents.

“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.”

Among the events that received funding in the first round was the Middle-Earth Halfling Marathon, staged at Hobbiton Movie Set at the end of April this year.
This inaugural event drew some 2,500 people including 1,000 competitors, some of whom dressed in costume. They ran or walked one of two distances around the picturesque village of Hobbiton – the halfling 21.1km or the eleventy-first of 11.1kms.
Event director Matt Reilly, of The Events Agency, says the Thermal Explorer funding enabled the event to get off the ground.
“The support gave us the seed funding necessary for us to be able to confidently move forward with developing what proved to be a successful event even in its first year and will only grow in the years to come.
“We’re already out there inviting runners and their supporters to mark their calendars for next year’s Middle-Earth Halfling Marathon which takes place on 25 March.”
Ms Greenwell says the focus will now be on developing events sector capability across the Thermal Explorer regions.

“The ongoing upskilling of our events sector will best position the events being staged in our regions to be extraordinarily successful and sought after – not only by our local communities but also visitors to each of our regions.

“We’ve already held some well-attended capability building workshops and webinars and we are expanding these along with other development initiatives.”

She encourages event organisers to register to receive notification of capability building opportunities.

For more information on the Thermal Explorer Regional Events Fund and to view the full list of funding recipients, visit