Messiah leads ravers to dance fest
About 13,000 people have packed the new site for the Gathering, New Zealand's largest dance party, for the 72-hour event.
The grassy terraces of the farmland site at the base of the Takaka Hill have been transformed into a small well-serviced town with a huge camping area, 70 food and clothing stalls and seven different dance zones.
The party started at midday yesterday when organiser Murray Kingi led thousands of walking revellers from the campground 2km up a narrow and winding road to a natural amphitheatre where the party is held.
In his large four-wheel-drive vehicle with the licence plate Gather, Mr Kingi appeared around the final corner like a messiah leading his people.
Then, after 12 hours of raving to the pulsating beat of 150 different DJs, the mostly 20-something crowd saw in the new year with a $10,000 fireworks display and a spectacular technicolour light show.
The hypnotic beat of the electronic music pumped out so loudly into the cool damp night that nearby portaloos shook and the pilot of a landing helicopter felt the vibrations.
It rained for much of yesterday but cleared about 8pm, staying fine for the rest of the night.
Most of the ravers were dressed in the latest street fashion and hailed from Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch, dispelling a common perception that the Gathering attracts mostly alternative lifestylers or hippies.
Cellphones, scooters, brightly-coloured hair and name brand clothing were common accessories. Many were professional people taking a break from their everyday lives and office jobs.
The most noticeable aspect of the event was that it was alcohol-free which made for a friendly, relaxed and incident-free evening.
It is the first time the Gathering, in its fifth year, has been held at this site, after moving from its previous site at Canaan Downs on top of Takaka hill.
Most Gatherers approved of the new site, praising its easy access, warmer climate and river setting. However some said the distance between the campground and dance zones was inconvenient.
Many said it was the best organised of all the Gathering parties.
There were none of the traffic problems which have marred previous Gatherings.