Is the Gathering good for Motueka?
More than 8,000 people travelled through Motueka over New Year, bound for the 48-hour Gathering dance party which was held at Canaan. The influx boosted normal summer tourist numbers to record levels and for the two days leading up to the festival colourfully-dressed young people from all over New Zealand packed the footpaths of the town. Traffic slowed and stuttered up the Takaka Hill until it finally stopped in a major snarl which lasted two hours while an ambulance weaved its way out of the remote site. Accommodation sites were pushed to their maximum limits and young people packed camping spots around the region while cafes and shops bustled with increased trade.
The initial call by festival organisers to move the dance party from the remote site to a more accessible location brought a strong reaction from local retailers who benefit from the event. The reaction was more muted from local police who were already putting in long hours to cover the usual summer events. Festival organisers have now said they would like to retain the use of the Canaan site if solutions to the traffic problem can be found.
This week the Motueka-Golden Bay News went on the streets to ask people if they wanted the Gathering to be held on the Takaka Hill again. Did they think it was good for the town, or is such a dance party a bad influence on the younger members of the community?
Mary Bell, 21, student
"Canaan Downs seems to be the perfect place for the Gathering. I went this year and it was great, there's heaps of space and great location. I don't know anywhere else in the region that might be as good as it. It's also really good for Motueka. The town was just buzzing the day before."
Wayne Thacker, mechanic
"The Gathering must be good for the local economy. Some of the people who go may not spend that much money but with so many coming through, it's got to make a difference. The way I see it, we've got to put up with traffic jams and other problems. We can't have all the benefit without some of the hassles, can we?"
Gary Lindquist, Motueka
"I think they should definitely hold the event at Canaan again, or anywhere north of Motueka, as it was great for the town. I don't think the festival was a bad influence on those that went as we all have to go through that stage when we grow up and at least they provided a safe environment for the kids. The road was a bit of a problem and any solution they come up with on that would be a bonus."
Jacqui Evans, Westbank Road
"I think the Gathering is brilliant for the town as it brings in revenue, but I do feel that organisers may have to find another venue because of the traffic problems on the narrow Canaan road. I do not feel the event is necessarily a 'bad influence' on those that attend it as it is in a controlled area and an environment that is relatively safe. In all, the only thing I have got against the event is the traffic problem which is caused through congestion on top of the Takaka Hill."
Fiona Bond, annual visitor to Kaiteriteri
"I think it's really good for the young ones to have somewhere to go, I wouldn't go myself. It may need to be somewhere else if it causes so many traffic problems, but I always take them into account and don't go over the hill that night. It obviously brings a lot of young people to the region who might return later with their own families."
Anthony Lunn, Brooklyn
"I reckon the Gathering is excellent for the region. With all the shops closing down in town it brings in a lot of young people who may, one day, return to the area on holiday. Plus, while they are here they are obviously going to spend money. I think the event was well organised and provided good support for those who went so they couldn't get into much harm. The traffic congestion is a bit of a problem, but they could look at busing more people into the event."