The last dance?
The Gathering has become a Nelson institution. Over six years it has helped put the region on the map, attracting thousands of visitors from throughout the country and overseas, and sparking an economic spinoff for businesses in Nelson, Motueka and Golden Bay. It has been good for Nelson, but the 2001 dance party may have been its last here.
Organiser Murray Kingi is considering moving the Gathering to the North Island. It is not the first time he has suggested doing so. He talked of it after the previous year's party lost $300,000. This time it can't be dismissed as idle talk because the Gathering is a numbers game. The latest party attracted only half the 12,000 Gatherers organisers had hoped for. With a loss of more than $100,000, creditors are again looking for their money. It is not surprising then that Mr Kingi is looking to move to the bigger population centres like Auckland or maybe Wellington, hoping to make the event more financially viable. Their gain will be Nelson's loss because the Gathering is not only of financial benefit to the region, it adds a vitality. There is an air of excitement in Nelson as Gatherers pass through heading to the Cobb Valley site before new year that adds to the holiday mood and would be missed.
Mr Kingi asserts that Nelson has not always been good to the Gathering, that it could do more to ensure its success such as the Tasman District Council helping with rubbish and relaxing some rules. It does deserve support. It has experienced its share of problems, from the rain-soaked 2000 dance party to complaints about traffic snarl-ups at its previous Canaan Downs site. However the Gathering has been largely trouble-free, providing an alcohol-free new year celebration without drunken violence, and the police have taken a relaxed attitude to any drug-taking.
The Gathering is facing up to the reality that it is not the only outdoor dance party and its popularity may be diminishing. This year the Gatherers included a more mainstream crowd, and the Vision festival at Pakawau and the Alpine Unity party in the Craigieburn Valley also attracted the dance community. If the Gathering wants to continue, here or anywhere else, it will need to get its finances in order. If the Nelson region wants to keep the Gathering, it will have to demonstrate its support in a meaningful way.