It’s wonderful to begin the new year being able to have the RASV team progressively return to the office after the summer break. The comradery, energy and enthusiasm generated by staff being able to come together again in the office is fabulous and gives us renewed optimism about the year ahead.
During January, there has been a variety of activations onsite at Melbourne Showgrounds, most notably the COVID-19 testing site. As many Victorians returned home from NSW in early January, the number of COVID tests conducted at Melbourne Showgrounds increased significantly to more than 1000 per day. Despite the huge spike in COVID tests, our Operations team, along with DHHS and Western Health, responded quickly to successfully scale up the operation to ensure wait times for testing onsite remained one of the lowest in the State.
The Melbourne Wedding & Bride Summer Bridal Expo, held in early January, was our first exhibition at Melbourne Showgrounds for 2021. The expo was highly successful, attracting more than 2,500 visitors to Melbourne Showgrounds. We are hopeful that business confidence continues to grow and we begin to hold and host more COVID safe events and exhibitions at Melbourne Showgrounds in the coming months.
The Disney Drive-In, presented by Open Air Cinemas, held over 30 nights in December was hugely popular and will return to Melbourne Showgrounds from Tuesday 23 February. A full schedule of movies and ticketing options to be released in the coming weeks.
Over the summer break, there has been some change in leadership in the Victorian agricultural landscape.
Mary-Anne Thomas was recently announced as the new Minister for Agriculture and Minister for Regional Development and Jaclyn Symes was appointed as Victoria’s new Attorney-General. The RASV has enjoyed a very positive and productive relationship with the Victorian agricultural ministers and we look forward to this continuing with Minister Thomas.
On behalf of the RASV Board, management, members and the wider agricultural community, I sincerely thank Minister Symes for her support as Minister for Agriculture and Regional Development. We highly value and greatly appreciate her considerable service to the Victorian agricultural sector and the many regional communities and services that she has advocated for throughout the past three years.
There has also been a leadership change at the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) with Emma Germano elected as President replacing David Jochinke. Emma is well known to the RASV as the 2016 winner of the RASV Emerging Leader in Victorian Agriculture (ELVA) Award and I trust that she will be a wonderful advocate for Victorian farmers.
It is particularly pleasing that the RASNSW are progressing with their plans to hold the 2021 Sydney Royal Easter Show from April 1-12.
This is wonderful news as Royal Shows are vitally important to the community. Royal Shows are a unique and valuable platform that bring our families and farmers together, build community spirit and help bridge the divide between country and city. They deliver significant social and economic value to the State and also help farmers stay competitive by providing an opportunity to share innovation and new ways of doing business.
I am pleased to advise that our plans are well progressed to deliver a COVID safe 2021 Royal Melbourne Show from Thursday 23 September to Sunday 3 October. We will work with DHHS and carefully monitor and learn from upcoming major events to ensure that we modify our plans as required to successfully deliver an enjoyable and safe experience for all involved.
During the summer break, the RASV was advised of the recent passing of Mrs Jean Wilcox, aged 100 years and also Mr Kevin Glover, aged 78. Jean was the wife of the late Vernon Wilcox CBE QC who was a Victorian politician from 1956-1976 and RASV Councilor from 1963 until his death in 2004. Kevin was a Honorary Life Member who was a Mounted Marshall for many years having stewarded in the Novelty events from 1959, retiring in 2009 though continued to assist in the Arena. On behalf of the RASV community, I extend my sincere sympathies to both Jean’s and Kevin’s family and friends.
Finally, I trust that Stock & Land Beef Week, commencing on Wednesday 27 January, is very successful again this year for all involved. Due to the uncertainty of COVID restrictions, particularly interstate movement, we are unable to conduct the RASV Heifer Challenge as part of the 2021 Stock & Land Beef Week. We look forward to the RASV Heifer Challenge returning as part of Beef Week 2022.
In the meantime, we look forward to the continuous improvement in the outlook as COVID restrictions hopefully ease further over the coming weeks and we can hold and host more COVID safe events and exhibitions at Melbourne Showgrounds in the near future.
Thank you for your ongoing support and I look forward to keeping in contact with you throughout 2021.
Chief Executive Officer