Gathering their wits after three-days of raving

New Plymouth Daily News, 4 January 2001

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SHOCK, horror.

The following NZPA report may confirm your suspicions.

Ninety-three out of 100 people surveyed by the Nelson Mail on Tuesday admitted taking some type of illegal drug at the 72-hour rave. At least two people were also openly selling cannabis at the party, including one man wearing a sequined sombrero hat with a sign saying "cannabis 4 U".

Only three people surveyed got their drugs at the Gathering. The rest said they bought them before arriving at the party.

Gathering organiser Murray Kingi said the event did not condone illegal drug use and openly discouraged it. He was surprised by the survey and said it misrepresented the 13,000 people at the party, which ended yesterday. Among partygoers, however, a different picture was painted. It appeared that most revellers would rather experience the festival on drugs.

The most popular drug among those questioned was ecstasy, which 46 people admitted taking. Ecstasy makes people feel happier, less inhibited and more confident. The pill is often called the love drug because people are more affectionate on it. Also popular at the Gathering was LSD or acid, the hallucinogen that increases sensory perception. Other drugs used were cannabis, speed, magic mushrooms and cactus extracts.

There were rumours that drugs were easy to buy at the event. Cannabis was common and readily available but harder drugs appeared difficult to get.

The man in the sombrero hat said he had sold 10 $40 bags of the locally-grown product in five minutes on New Year's Eve and $1600 worth in one day yesterday. "I'm just providing a service, a good public service. I get thanked for it all the time," he said yesterday while patrolling the dance zones.

Kingi said that if any of the event's 150 security officers caught anyone selling or using drugs they would be harshly dealt with. As far as he knew no one has been caught. He said it was sad that so many people needed illegal drugs to enjoy the Gathering. "There are a lot of poeple who come to the Gathering and don't take drugs and still have a good time." Kingi said medical and counselling staff were on hand to care for anyone who had a bad drug trip, as apparently happened to at least three people.

Police were not a permanent presence at the event, although they did attend briefly on New Year's Eve, and were called in once to help evict a troublesome reveller. Apart from that, the Gathering was an almost trouble-free event, the best of the five Gathering parties so far, Kingi said.

He is still considering moving the Gathering to the North Island despite an exceptional reaction from participants who told him they loved the new Upper Takaka site and didn't want it to change again.

New Plymouth Daily News, 4 January 2001

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