Gathering looks at northern move

Christchurch Press, 2 January 2001

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Problems with local authorities may force the Gathering to move north next year.

On New Year's Eve, more than 13,000 young people danced until dawn, unaware that this may have been their last Gathering in the South Island.

Gathering company chief Murray Kingi said the new site in Cobb Valley, Golden Bay, had worked well, but staff had encountered serious difficulties gaining a resource consent and dealing with local authorities.

"We have just encountered problem after problem," he said. "We don't want to leave the region but it's just getting really difficult."

Mr Kingi did not know whether the Gathering would remain in the South Island. "I'm really keeping my options open," he said. "I would love to stay in the region but I'm willing to look around."

Wherever the Gathering was held next year, it would not be any larger, he said.

"If it was to get any bigger, it would probably lose its way."

In the past five years, the Gathering has grown to become one of the biggest New Year's Eve parties in New Zealand. Previously held at Canaan Downs, on top of the Takaka Hill, the change of venue this year increased its capacity to 15,000.

It officially kicked off at noon on December 31, 2000, and will continue until noon tomorrow. The party has a strict alcohol ban but has traditionally been associated with the use of illicit drugs.

On Sunday night, revellers welcomed in the New Year with a dance party and light show under the stars. Surrounded on all sides by towering mountains, thousands swayed and gyrated to the sounds of house, trance, and drum 'n' bass, until the rising sun heralded the beginning of a new day.

Despite the noise and frenetic dancing, an amiable atmosphere was maintained throughout the night and organisers said there had been few problems.

At 1am, St John's reported a busy night. Paramedic Malcolm Coker said staff had treated about 150 people since 9am the previous day. Most were suffering from minor cuts and bruises but many women had been seeking the morning-after pill.

Nearby, staff at a "Safe House for Everyone" tent were kept busy with people suffering side effects from drugs, or recovering from bad "trips". However, staff said they were under strict instructions not to talk to the media.

Partygoers spoken to by The Press praised the event and its setting. Many said it was their second or third Gathering.

Others simply stared blankly when asked questions. "Oh man," said one young fellow. "That's just too intense."

Yesterday morning, revellers recuperated slowly under a burning summer sun. Angela Lyon, from Dunedin, and Sarah Hopkins, from Wellington, lay out on a hillside in their sleeping bags.

Ms Lyon: "We haven't been to bed yet. We got back from (dancing) and it was such a sunny day, we thought we would set up our beds outside."

One 52-year-old reveller, who wished to be known only as Bill, was impressed with the party.

"It's the atmosphere," he said. "The fact that you can come up here and 10 or 15,000 young people have a magic time without hurting each other. They are teaching my generation a thing or two."


Caption: PHOTO: RACHEL SIMPSON Terri Ripeka Crawford, of Hawkes Bay, performs a poi dance in the Trance Zone at the Gathering.

Diana McCurdy and Rachel Walsh, Christchurch Press, 2 January 2001

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