Claims of heavy drug use at Gathering party

Christchurch Press, 4 January 2001

Click image for larger version

Claims have been made of heavy drug use by patrons at the Gathering dance party at Golden Bay over the past three days. The event, attended by about 13,000 people and patrolled by 150 security staff, wound up yesterday, but as soon as it ended tales of flagrant drug sales and use emerged.

Patrons spoken to by The Press said while the event was awesome and a safe environment, it was obvious that cannabis and manufactured drugs were readily available. Their comments were supported by a random poll claiming 93 of 100 people surveyed said they had participated in some type of illegal drug activity at the event.

In the past, the event's organisers had stated they did not condone illegal drug use.

Yesterday Nelson police manager Inspector Jim Wilson said he had received no reports of blatant use but over the next few days he would get a better picture. Extra staff had helped Takaka staff patrol the event, which was a private venture, but they had not been on the site at all times.

He said police policy on drugs had not changed and police would not turn a blind eye to any offences involving illegal drugs. "Our resources here in Nelson were really stretched over the holiday period and there was no way we could have searched the bags of all those attending the event."

Mr Wilson said there were no undercover officers at the event.

Another person who attended the Gathering said drug use was no worse than at most rock concerts. "The hype's probably coming from some youngsters on their first big day out," he said.

Green Party cannabis decriminalisation advocate Nandor Tancos said the success of the Gathering showed it was time for people to "get real" in their approach to marijuana. He said Nelson had just experienced its biggest riot after alcohol-fuelled youths got carried away on New Year's Eve. In contrast, over a three-day period, 13,000 people had attended and enjoyed a festival at which there had been no fighting or trouble.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that legal drugs are more dangerous," he said.

Peter Christian, Christchurch Press, 4 January 2001

Page last updated: