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Protecting people priority as iwi call for festival cancellation.

Tairāwhiti iwi have told Rhythm and Vines owners and management that the New Year festival should be cancelled.

The chairs of Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki, Ngāti Porou and Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tamanuhiri chief executive met with Live Nation (the owner of Rhythm and Vines) representatives, R&V chief executive Kieran Spillane and managing director Mark Kneebone on Friday to express concerns about the festival.

In a joint statement, Te Aitanga a Māhaki chair Pene Brown said his board had met and were adamant the festival should be cancelled because of the threat posed by 24,000 festival-goers pouring into the region.

“We are concerned about the additional stress and pressure the festival would place on local health services, shops and accommodation owners who would be on red alert (red in the traffic light system of the Covid-19 Protection Framework).”

R&V representatives told the iwi collective they were doing everything they could do to ensure the event was safe and were working with health officials and within government guidelines to meet health and safety requirements. All people attending R&V must be double vaccinated and have a vaccination passport.

However, Te Runanganui o Ngāti Porou chair Selwyn Parata said local iwi had taken the initiative and cancelled annual events such as the Ngāti Porou Pa Wars and Mount Hikurangi dawn ceremony because they believed that was the responsible thing to do, and R&V should follow suit.

Mr Parata is also chair of Te Matatini national kapa haka festival organising committee. The 2022 Te Matatini was to be held in Auckland in February and 30,000 performers and festival-goers were expected but the decision was made to cancel it because protecting people was the committee's highest priority.

Iwi chairs were concerned the region still had a major vaccination challenge, with just over 75 percent of the region's eligible population fully vaccinated.

Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust chair Moera Brown said: “iwi health providers are working overtime and pulling out all stops to get as many of our people vaccinated and iwi organisations are working with our hapu and marae to prepare them for the arrival of Delta in Tairāwhiti. We have concluded we cannot rely on anyone else. Our whānau need to be self-managing and self-reliant.”

Scenario planning for the arrival of Covid-19 “clearly signals that our hospitals and health services will be under severe pressure and a lot of our rural whānau and communities will have to be prepared to look after themselves, as they did in Bola and recent civil defence emergencies”.

Tairāwhiti Arts Festival chief executive Tama Waipara said in these Covid times, festivals and events could not be seen in isolation from the communities in which the events were held.

“The health and wellbeing of communities has to be a key consideration for event organisers, not just the health and safety of festival-goers, performers and workers. It feels like the focus is on Tairāwhiti as a destination not the consideration.”

The iwi representatives told R&V organisers they would struggle to recruit locals to work at this year's festival, saying many whānau who had previously worked as R&V security and carpark wardens were saying they would not be working at this year's festival if it went ahead.

When asked if they had considered holding the event in Auckland or other locations that had a 90 percent vaccination rate by December 30, R&V organisers said they had made some inquiries but there was no suitable venue that could recreate the unique R&V setting and vibe, and now there was just not enough time, the statement said.

Two-and-a-half-thousand R&V tickets had been refunded as a consequence of festival organisers stating people need to be double vaccinated to attend the festival.

Mr Spillane, told iwi that Live Nation, R&V owners and management were keen to develop an ongoing relationship with the local iwi.

He admitted they had been slow in engaging with iwi and a dialogue was well overdue.

Tai Kerekere — the Parihimanihi Marae representative on the Te Aitanga a Mahaki board — said their marae and hapu were feeling “a bit aggrieved” by the lack of direct approach to them as mana whenua of Waiohika (the festival is held at Waiohika Estate) and the discontinuation of their kapa. Waihirere has been part of the pohiri at previous festivals.

Toitu Tairāwhiti iwi appreciated the opportunity to directly advise R&V organisers that they believed this year's R&V festival should be cancelled.

Pene Brown said iwi “are obligated to make a stand on the festival, noting the concerns of our whānau, the petitions circulating in the community (against the festival going ahead) and our obligation as mana whenua to protect our lands, our people and our community.

Live Nation representatives said they were pleased to begin a conversation with local iwi to hear iwi views on this year's festival and to outline the proactive steps they were taking to try to make the festival a safe, enjoyable and viable one.

A follow-up meeting is to be held once the Government announces details regarding the traffic light systems and further clarifies underwriting cancelled events and festivals.

A Rhythm and Vines spokesman said organisers were working collaboratively and closely with the Gisborne community, key stakeholders and local authorities, and expected to provide an update on plans in due course.

R&V Jagermeister stage. File picture

  1. Hope says:

    Oh my goodness, 30-odd thousand partygoers come from all over – what is it that the RnV organisers do not understand? Gisborne simply does not want RnV here this year, end of. The people come, they take over the town, they leave a huge mess to clean up and off they go the day after new year . . . while this year we the people of our town would be left with the worry of Covid cases coming to our part of the country. I say NO!!!
    Money is doing the talking, not our people and relationships. Are the organisers worried for our people? Not really.

    1. Lez, Auckland says:

      You’re clearly very closed minded. Do you really think Covid is going away any time soon? Get vaccinated then you’ll have less chance of getting it and of it being severe. Just because a single region doesn’t want an event, doesn’t mean the Government has to listen. What makes your region more important than others? There are festivals and events all over the place happening over summer and Aucklanders will definitely be attending. And all it takes is one person, then the entire place is screwed.

      Furthermore, less than 0.4 percent of the Auckland population has Covid. Even if 20,000 people attended RnV just from Auckland, that’s only 1.2% of the population. Meaning that the chances of one of the 0.4 percent going to RnV is incredibly low. So how about they allow a little freedom for the young ones during their limited young days?

      1. WIREMU A TUHOU says:

        You’re right Lez, it isn’t going away, and it is only a matter of time before it gets here. I’d prefer to wait until it gets here at a rate we can manage.
        As for percentages, it only took one person to travel out of Auckland to basically cause Waikato to be added to the Auckland Region at Level3; it took one person from Auckland to travel north to do the same thing; and dear I say it again – 1 person to travel to Queenstown, again from Auckland, to cause them to respond. All of this at 0.001 percent of those from Auckland that attended.
        That in itself put a lot of strain on the regions’ resources, front-line staff, and families that didn’t have a say at all because some people thought it was OK to break the rules.
        R and V – a three-day event recurring annually – are you telling me that the young ones (as you call them), not attending, is going to cause them immense suffering and cause detrimental effects to their personal development if it doesn’t go ahead? If that is the case then the issue is not medical.
        As for what makes this region more important – Tairawhiti is my home – and to me is more important than any other place in the world – Auckland included. For your information, I’m not anti-Auckland, just pro-Tairawhiti.