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‘Support local businesses’

Mayor issues challenge to fill void for businesss after R&V postponement.

Gisborne's Mayor Rehette Stoltz is imploring locals to support local in the wake of the postponement of the Rhythm and Vines festival for 2021.

R&V has been postponed to Easter weekend 2022 in what festival organisers said was the best move forward considering the Covid-19 vaccination situation in Tairawhiti .

The three-day festival was to take place at Waiohika Estate just out of Gisborne over New Year but will instead be held from April 15 to April 17 of next year.

“This decision has been made in consultation with Tairāwhiti iwi, Tairāwhiti DHB (district health board Hauora Tairawhiti), local councils and MPs, and takes into account the New Zealand Government announcement on November 29 that the Gisborne region will remain at the red setting of the traffic light system until at least December 13, 2021,” a festival spokesperson said.

The postponement was almost a certainty after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed on Monday that Gisborne would be one of 12 districts to move into the red level of the Covid-19 Protection Framework (traffics light system) due to low vaccination rates.

Regional settings will be reviewed fortnightly, but with double vaccination rates well below 90 percent —87 percent first doses, 77 percent second doses as of today — Tairāwhiti seems likely to stay in the red.

Festivals are only able to go ahead at orange and green levels under the Covid-19 Protection Framework, with the addition of a My Vaccine Pass.

The festival brings thousands of young people into the district over New Year, and many businesses reap the benefits, particularly the hospitality industry.

Mayor Stoltz acknowledged the blow that would be to businesses.

“I know that there will be disappointed businesses out there who rely on the R&V income and I want to put the challenge out to our community to go out of their way this summer to support our local businesses as best as they can and help fill that void.

“Please get behind our local businesses and invest in our Tairāwhiti economy.”

Mayor Stoltz said she knew it had been a tough decision for R&V “and I want to thank them for making our community safety one of their top priorities”.

“These are uncertain times that will keep changing and I am confident that we will be in a better position at Easter. I want to encourage our community to come forward and help us get our vaccination rates up to 90 percent (double vaxxed).”

The R&V spokesperson said their mission “has and always will be a safe and secure festival for all involved and believes this decision will allow us to keep delivering the best festival experience that over 400,000 young Kiwis have enjoyed since 2003”.

The postponement comes off the back of Tairāwhiti iwi telling Rhythm and Vines owners and management that the New Year festival should be cancelled because of the threat posed by 24,000 festival-goers pouring into the region.

Following the confirmation of the postponement, Te Aitanga-a-Māhaki chairman Pene Brown told The Herald they looked forward to working with organisers in the lead-up to the new date.

Anyone unable to attend the rescheduled event will be able to request a refund until December 16.

The Easter festival will operate under a special licence allowing the sale of alcohol over the three days.

Mayor Rehette Stolz. Gisborne Herald file picture by Liam Clayton