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Friday analysis: Bushfires followed by Covid – it was the last straw for AUSTimber

The cancellation of this year’s AUSTimber event, while probably inevitable given the circumstances, is nonetheless disappointing in so many ways. No one wins. From the event organisers to the exhibitors to the communities and businesses in East Gippsland, to the industry as a whole, everyone loses out.

The organisers most certainly facing an extremely difficult job.

Through no fault of their own, they were faced with the trauma of the Black Summer Bushfires and the quarantine and travel restrictions imposed because of Covid19.

These events led to the rescheduling of the event twice.

With the Covid situation, and in particular the Delta variant, becoming significantly more devastating there was little room for the organisers to move.

Initially, lockdowns warnings were issued days in advance. Then four hour’s warning, then in one case a little over an hour’s warning.

The unpredictability became too much, not just for AUSTimber, but also for large-scale events across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.

Agricultural shows have been suspended in most States, events such as the Henty Agricultural Field Days were cancelled sometimes with little notice.

Then alarm bells started to sound for some AUSTimber exhibitors who expressed their own concerns and their intent to scale back their involvement including cancelling live demonstrations.

A range of options was canvassed including the sale of AUSTimber to a group of major exhibitors, but that was unsuccessful.

The organisers were indeed facing a brick wall, on top of which was the very real concern for the health and wellbeing of all involved.

Forget lockdowns, forget travel bans, forget crowd numbers – there is a deadly pandemic still out there. On the day the event was cancelled New South Wales recorded 919 cases. Yesterday it was 1034.

Eventually the organisers had to admit that “regrettably, having absorbed the costs associated with two prior deferrals of AUSTimber 2020/21, AEPL (AUSTimber Events Pty Ltd) is not in a financial position to meet the claims of exhibitors, partners, suppliers and ticketholders resulting from the cancellation of the event’’.

It can’t have been easy at all – many people involved will be hurting – but it was probably inevitable.

To make a sad situation even worse, it seems that there won’t be another AUSTimber.

“The board of AEPL has therefore regretfully decided to appoint Worrells Solvency and Forensic Accountants to undertake a creditors voluntary winding up.

Worrells will issue a formal communication to creditors in the near future,” the organisers said in a statement.

Sadly, it might just be that the days of the “big show” are over.