Gathering may use same site

Motueka-Golden Bay News, 8 January 1998

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Nelson organisers of the Gathering dance festival, which attracted some 9,000 people to Canaan Downs at New Year, hope to use the same venue next year.

Co-organiser Grant Smithies said the site was a perfect venue - it was only the one-lane entry road which caused problems. "If we can find ways to speed up the traffic into the site we would be well into using that venue again." Mr Smithies said that the few times the access road needed to be used for emergency travel, all traffic using the road had to be stopped.

"One possibility is to have a helicopter for emergencies, or better medical facilities up there so cases can be dealt with on-site. I would love to see ways of keeping that site, as I think it is a hugely positive thing for the people of the area, not only in the money it brings in but also the vibrancy it adds to the region."

The possibility that the Gathering may move to another site had raised concerns among Motueka retailers who reaped the financial benefits of festival-goers passing through town. Mainstreet co-ordinator Shirley Frater said the Gathering was excellent for the town, in that it benefited businesses and service industries.

"We spend a lot of money to attract people to Motueka and to have 9,000 young people come through the town can not be passed up, as the odds are they may come back again on holiday," she said. "We want it to stay, and we want the Motueka community to get in behind it."

The 48-hour alcohol-free dance event is being hailed as a success by organisers. Mr Smithies said any drug use at the event was being massively overstated. "At any event there will be some drug use, but you just have to set things up to try and deal with that." He said he felt that having only seven or eight cases being dealt with by Red Cross, out of 9,000 people who were on site, was a pretty good innings.

"Unfortunately the people who did come to grief through drug use make much more interesting copy, but personally I find it disappointing that those seven to eight people did use drugs and come unstuck." Mr Smithies said security confiscated "mountains" of alcohol at the entrance and continually looked for drinking during the festival.

"We are going to be doing lots of debriefing with all parties involved in the event and, if we can, I would be really happy to use the same site."

Motueka-Golden Bay News, 8 January 1998

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