Bigger police turnout for next Gathering

Nelson Mail, 4 October 2001

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There will be a bigger police presence at the Gathering dance party in Golden Bay this New Year. Senior Sergeant Grant Andrews of Motueka police said they were still in the "planning phase", but would definitely attend the event, which will run from December 31 to January 3.

The Gathering has been running for the past six years, attracting up to 10,000 people to Canaan Downs on Takaka Hill and more recently the Cobb Valley, near Takaka.

Mr Andrews said police had decided to be on site following media reports of widespread drug use at last year's Gathering, and the increased popularity of the event. An informal survey by the Nelson Mail at last year's Gathering found that 93 of the 100 people surveyed had admitted taking some type of illegal drug at the party.

Mr Andrews said most people who attended the event came for the music and enjoyment, not to use drugs.

"It would be naive to think there was no drug use at these events. Having police at the gate may deter any drug dealers or those in possession of drugs, but we have never had any problems with the Gathering."

Gathering organiser Murray Kingi said the police had always supported the event and he would work with them to ensure things ran smoothly.

"There was no problems with traffic after our planning last year, everything was great."

Mr Andrews said police had attended a couple of minor incidents at the event during the previous six years, but there had never been any reports of violence or serious offences.

"I fully support the Gathering, which is great for youth as well as older people. I think the expectation of parents and the like is that their children are safe at these events. I hope it goes really well."

He said he would discuss the increased police presence with Mr Kingi in the next few weeks.

Mr Kingi said ticket sales were going well, with up to 80 tickets a day being sold last week. The organisers had extended the deadline to buy tickets for $130 to October 11. Ticket prices will then rise to $160.

"We are expecting around 12,500 people this year, similar to the numbers last year," he said.

Mr Kingi said the main dance zones would be closed down on the third day to give people a chance to rest and recover before heading home. "We don't want people just leaving after two or three days of no sleep and crashing their cars."

Sheriee Smith, Nelson Mail, 4 October 2001

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