Mayor urges long-term planning for Gathering

Nelson Mail - 5 January 2000

The Gathering needs to look at long-term planning rather than separate planning for each year's event, says Tasman Mayor John Hurley.

Mr Hurley is a supporter of the annual dance party on Takaka Hill, which attracts more than 9000 people to the Nelson region each New Year. "It's the district's greatest show," he said today.

Delays in entering the road to the Canaan Downs site last Thursday meant traffic was backed up for several kilmeters along State Highway 60, frustrating drivers traveling over the hill. Vehicles entering the site were searched for alcohol, causing a bottle-neck. The narrow, unsealed access road to the remote site also caused problems.

Mr Hurley said problems with traffic congestion and access to the site should be manageable, and the only way they could be addressed was to look at long-term arrangements. The cost of developing the access road was not going to be offset in one year, he said. [see note 1 at end of article]

If there was an arrangement that The Gathering was going to take place at Canaan Downs for the next five years, however, it would be appropriate to proceed with an upgrade. Mr Hurley said the council could assist with discussions on the issue, but he would not go as far as to say that it would contribute money.

A problem this year had been everyone arriving for the event at the same time, he said. The organisers opened the gates 90 minutes earlier than planned to cope with the influx. The organisers had been responsible in searching cars for alcohol, he said.

Mr Hurley said The Gathering was identified with Tasman District, and he wanted to keep it here. He hoped the event would continue at the Canaan Downs site, but if that was not feasible, other sites in the district could be considered.

Mr Hurley said the organisers had been unlucky with the weather, but those who attended the party, including his daughter, had enjoyed it.

The Gathering organisers plan to hold a debrief. Mr Hurley said he wanted to be informed of the outcome.

Laura Basham, Nelson Mail, 5 January 2000

note 1

We'd like to point out that The Gathering has in fact been asking the Tasman District to help us with improvements to the Canaan Downs road for the past four years. Up until now, the district has been either unwilling or unable to help us with this. We're very pleased to hear that Mr Hurley would now like to talk with us about the possibilities for next year. We look forward to discussing this with him soon.

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