Public shown new Gathering site

Nelson Mail, 16 August 2000

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The Gathering for 2001 will be held amidst a giant natural amphitheatre of grassy terraces and wide open spaces surrounded by lush green hills in Cobb Valley Rd, Upper Takaka.

The organisers of the New Year dance party, along with Jon Harwood of the Harwood family which owns the site, showed off the Gathering's new home to the public for the first time yesterday.

The new venue was found after access problems prompted organisers to abandon the site they had used for the past four years, at Canaan Downs on Takaka Hill.

The new site includes a river, and Gatherers will park their cars and pitch tents between the nearby Waitui Bridge and Blue Hole, a renowned swimming spot in Upper Takaka.

Organiser Murray Kingi described the new venue as a much safer place, with sealed two-lane access all the way, which would reduce traffic congestion. He said lower altitudes would also ensure more consistent temperatures.

Mr Kingi said while the new site provided different problems to Canaan Downs, the secret to safety control was preparation and forward thinking. He said the river which runs through the site would be completely lit up at night and there would be lifeguards along the length of it throughout the day.

Tickets are available only through the Gathering website or through an 0800 number as an anti-forgery mechanism, after forgeries cost organisers an estimated $500,000 last year.

"It would be treacherous for people to try to get into this new site. With our banding system, if they don't have a band, with the new road they will be out before their feet can touch the ground."

Tickets currently cost $130, but the price will increase to $160 on October 1.

Mr Kingi has just returned from overseas where he visited seven countries in six weeks, attending dance parties and festivals in Europe in search of ideas on how to improve the Gathering. "It was actually very disappointing. We didn't learn anything over there. We could not do anything better than we do here in New Zealand."

Mr Kingi said he was expecting 10,000 to 15,000 at this year's event, which has been extended to 72 hours. He said last year 800 tickets were sold overseas and the new Internet booking system meant organisers would able to effectively gauge the number of tickets sold beyond New Zealand.

Site owner Dave Harwood said the site and the event would provide a lot of pleasure for people and he was happy to be part of that. He said while some neighbours had concerns about the event, organisers were having a meeting to discuss possible problems and solutions.

One problem they expected to have beaten was last year's traffic congestion, with up to eight hours' wait.

[Illustration] Caption: Photo MARTIN DE RUYTER Event organiser Murray Kingi at the new site for the Gathering in the Cobb Valley.

Kylie Pinker, Nelson Mail, 16 August 2000

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