The Gathering goes to new site this year

The Dominion, 9 August 2000

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New Zealand's biggest New Year's Eve dance party, The Gathering, will be held at a different site this year for environmental and safety reasons.

The alcohol-free event, which attracted more than 15,000 people to the millennium party, was abandoning the Canaan Downs site on top of Takaka Hill for a site in Golden Bay where there were better access and facilities, publicist Alison Green said.

Enmvironmentally, four years of continued impact with thousands of people converging on the Canaan Downs site is not sustainable for that area in the long term. The new site is sufficiently isolated and typical of the beautiful lush surroundings of the Nelson-Golden Bay area. It's a fantastic backdrop for a Gathering," Ms Green said.

The site offered better, bigger parking areas, flatter camping areas and more conmsistent weather because it was at sea level, she said. It also had a river running through it.

Safety was a factor in the change of site after organisers had problems evacuating more than 40 people with hypothermia along the eight-kilometre single-track dirt road last year.

A sealed, two-lane road into the new site in a Golden Bay valley would avoid a repeat of the eight-hour traffic jam last year, she said.

Organisers were also changing the ticketing system after more than 5000 forged tickets were used at last year's party.

Ms Green said a "professional forger" would have made half a million dollars on the backs of hard-working organisers of the event, which just managed to break even last year.

The $130 dollar tickets, which go on sale on Monday, would be available only through The Gathering's website or an 0800 number, and would be limited to 10 tickets a person to thwart scalpers. Tickets would be electronically coded, Ms Green said.

Golden Bay visitors centre spokesman Henry James said The Gathering would mean big business for the area.

"The population here [of 5000] doubles over the New Year period anyway but there's going to be a hell of a lot more if The Gathering comes here. Shop-owners and accommodation providers will be absolutely delighted."

The Gathering has been extended to four days and three nights this year.

Bess Manson, The Dominion, 9 August 2000

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