Gathering deeper in debt

Nelson Mail, 14 March 2001

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The Gathering dance party is sinking deeper into financial strife as its despondent organiser Murray Kingi tries to deal with increasingly angry creditors.

Mr Kingi said he had been desperately trying to pay his creditors since revealing six weeks ago that the New Year dance party owed $200,000 to contractors, performers and crew members.

The Gathering is New Zealand's biggest dance party attracting 9000 people to the last event and injecting an estimated $2 million into the Nelson economy.

Mr Kingi said liquidation was not an option at the moment, as he was still confident of repaying his creditors.

Although his confidence had waned slightly, he believed there was an 80 percent chance of saving the 72-hour event, held at Upper Takaka.

Mr Kingi's debt has risen to $250,000, and he has not yet found the money to pay it. He said that while most of his creditors were supportive, many were becoming increasingly angry.

He has blamed the crisis on a misunderstanding with The Gathering's ticketing agent Online Reservations, which he claims led him to believe that more tickets had been sold than was actually the case.

Online Reservations has declined to comment except to say that it fulfilled its obligations to The Gathering. Mr Kingi said he was hopeful that his creditors, who numbered more than 50, would agree to wait to be paid, possibly when tickets to the next Gathering went on sale in June.

"We can trade out of it (through profits from the next Gathering), but it's just getting an understanding with our creditors. I've run out of ideas as to how to raise the money."

Mr Kingi said some creditors had been paid and the majority of those remaining, who were owed between $160 and $30,000, supported him and were prepared to wait for payment. Some had waived their fee as a show of support for the event.

Nelson Hirequip manager Trevor Tuffnell said The Gathering had already paid him $90,000 for hired equipment but still owed $30,000. He supported The Gathering and was prepared to wait until Mr Kingi could find the money to pay him. "I'm confident we'll eventually be paid."

Mr Kingi said many of his smaller creditors, who were owed less than $1000 each, were becoming increasingly angry. One had phoned him and threatened him with physical violence . "He said he was sending a guy round to extract the money or a pound of flesh, whichever came first."

He said he sympathised with the creditors and was still committed to paying them. "It's understandable that they need their money. It's their profit, and they want to be paid."

He had "knocked on a lot of doors" and had approached two potential investors from overseas for financial support, but without success.

Mr Kingi said he had also asked the Tasman and Nelson councils for help, but both had said that although they supported The Gathering, they could not offer financial assistance because they could not be seen to be supporting a private business. "There's a lot of support out there, but no money."

Mr Kingi said he intended suing Online Reservations to recover between $400,000 and $700,000 he believed the company lost him. He was also taking legal action against about 15 stallholders who he said owed him $30,000.

Nelson Mail, 14 March 2001

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