Full year's planning goes into a day

20:27, Jan 22 2013
Southland Times photo
Sport Southland Surf to City events manager, Matt Sillars, is ready for this year's BNZ Surf to City event on February 10.

Matt Sillars obsesses about the weather.

He studies charts and tidal patterns at Oreti Beach for weeks each year.

But he's not a keen angler.

He's one of a team that puts together one of the popular community events in Southland each year - the Surf to City fun run.

Its success, he says, is out of the hands of the organisers, and rests with mother nature - dictating the weather and tide at Oreti Beach.

"We do our best but it is weather dependent on the day and we are vulnerable. If there are showers, it could cost us dearly."


In the nine years he has organised the event, he's never had to implement his contingency plan.

For the past few years the event has about 3000 participants and in 2009, numbers peaked at more than 4000.

Numbers of participants have doubled in the past eight years.

No-one at Sport Southland knows how long the event had been running, it's believed it might be 25 years.

The event had previously been called City to Surf - from Queens Park to Oreti Beach.

There had been controversial issues when a cyclist was killed during an event in Christchurch.

"The issue of liability became a concern, so events around the country were suspended until after the ramifications," he said.

Logistically it also made sense to turn the event around and make it from the beach to the city so at the finish there was shelter, food, beverages and a festival atmosphere, he said.

Organising for each event starts the day after the previous one ends.

Sillars and another event organiser, Sally Hayes, met with partners and stakeholders for a debrief, then reset dates - usually the second Sunday in February - then three months later the planning starts.

Queens Park is booked and checks are made to ensure the fun run doesn't clash with any events at Sandy Point.

Then it's on to sorting traffic, talking with police and stakeholders who help to provide the 70-plus volunteers needed to run the event. The bulk of volunteers come from The Heart Foundation and Athletics Southland, and each organisation gets $1 from entrant fees.

"We really appreciate and need their support because we cannot do it ourselves," Sillars said.

The Olympic Weight Lifting Club had also been supportive and members were experienced at traffic management, which was the club's main fundraiser for the year, he said.

However, more complicated traffic requirements had been introduced, which meant some of the traffic management was contracted out, he said.

Other costs such as signs, portable toilets and advertising had also gone up considerably.

Traffic management was probably the biggest challenge organisers faced. "In the old days we took over the road but now have to formally notify road closures, provide access to roads and fill out lots of paper work," he said.

Surf to City was popular because it was not competitive, achievable and easy for families, he said.

Organisers had been pushing for more corporate involvement during the past few years.

This year there would be more of a workplace focus, he said.

More than 300 businesses had taken part in the BNZ workplace challenge in November, and he saw it as a signal they wanted to become more involved in community events.

Many participants used the event as a transition to more competitive sporting events in the country.

"In the past people started with Surf to City and completed a Coast to Coast a few years later."

Sillars was certain the Southland anchor event would continue for many years.

He did not have major plans for changes in the future.

"We wanted to provide more entertainment and more registration via the website.

"If it's not broken, it does not not need fixing but I am always prepared to tweak," he said.

DID YOU KNOW? The BNZ Surf to City is a fun, participation-focused event that can be run, walked or cycled on February 10. The 12km event starts at Oreti Beach and finishes at Queens Park, Invercargill. The popular 6km run/walk starts at Currans Rd and finishes at Queens Park, Invercargill. The AMI Kids in the City is for children aged under 14 years. It is free and starts about 12.30pm at the finish area of the BNZ Surf to City event. Entries will be taken on the day but register before noon at the AMI marquee in Queens Park. Challenge! The Challenge 2.5km event is designed for anyone with a disability. Entries at Sport Southland and must be in by Friday, February 8.

The Southland Times