Gisborne’s Rhythm and Vines music festival has been postponed until Easter 2022.
The annual three-day event at Waiohika Estate is normally the first in the world to welcome the new year. But for the first time in its 19-year history, it has been rescheduled, spoiling the summer plans of thousands.
The decision to postpone comes after the prime minister on Monday announced that the Gisborne District would move into the “red” setting when the country’s new Covid-19 traffic light system kicks in on Friday.
Under the “red” setting, venues using the vaccine passport system cannot hold gatherings of more than 100 people. Rhythm and Vines (R&V) pulls an audience of more than 20,000 each year.
The festival will now take place from April 15 till April 17, with four nights camping available from April 14.
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The decision to postpone had been made in consultation with Tairāwhiti iwi, the Tairāwhiti District Health Board, local councils and MPs, festival organisers said. All tickets remain valid for the new dates, and organisers are offering a 14-day refund window for people who are unable to attend the new dates.
The refund window closes at 5pm on December 16.
In a statement, festival organisers said: “Rhythm and Vines’ mission has [been] and always will be a safe and secure festival for all involved, and [we] believe this decision will allow us to keep delivering the best festival experience that over 400,000 young Kiwis have enjoyed since 2003.
“Rhythm and Vines would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to everyone who has continued to support this year’s festival including all staff, contractors, artists and suppliers who will have been affected by this decision.
“Getting vaccinated is how we can return to the shows and festivals we love and we encourage everyone to #vaxforlive.”
R&V festival director Kieran Spillane said it was the correct decision to pause and reset.
“With Tairāwhiti [about to go into] a ‘red’ traffic light setting and taking on board the concerns of the local community and the Tairāwhiti iwi that it is highly unlikely that Gisborne will achieve the vaccination rates required to change that setting in time for R&V, it is untenable to continue with our December plans for our festival.”
However, one of the largest suppliers to Rhythm and Vines and the festival industry warns that the rescheduling won’t stop Aucklanders travelling to the Gisborne region.
Andrew Mowbray, the managing director of Awop, which supplies cashless payment systems to events, anticipates thousands of ticketholders will intend on keeping their holiday plans even with Rhythm and Vines being postponed.
“The fact is, thousands of Aucklanders will travel to Gisborne for that period regardless,” Mowbray said.
“Accommodation has been booked already, flights and transport arranged and plans set – I would imagine that at least 5000 to 10,000 people will head to Gisborne. And instead of being confined to the festival site, they will now be in town and moving around. There is no risk that has been mitigated at all in terms of Covid transfer.”
R&V co-founder Hamish Pinkham said the year had been incredibly tough for Aotearoa “and in particular our events industry”.
“However, pressure makes diamonds, and we are excited about the possibilities of this new adventure and think Kiwis and eventually international tourists will embrace the Easter road trip to the East Coast.”
Gisborne mayor Rehette Stoltz said she was pleased the situation has been resolved and encouraged people to get vaccinated ahead of the rescheduled festival next year.
“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 per cent. Don’t wait – do it now.
“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.”
The decision to postpone comes just four weeks before the festival was due to get under way at Waiohika.
There were calls earlier this week for the festival to be axed to protect vulnerable communities against Covid-19 and the event appeared all but doomed on Monday afternoon when Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Gisborne would move into the “red” setting.
Auckland and several other regions in the North Island with lower vaccination rates will also move to the “red” setting on Friday. Those are: Northland, Taupō, Rotorua Lakes districts, Whakatāne, Kawerau, Ōpōtiki, Wairoa, Rangitikei, Whanganui and Ruapehu districts.
Gisborne is inside the Tairāwhiti DHB boundary, which has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country.
As of Thursday, Tairāwhiti was sitting at 87 per cent for first doses and 77 per cent for second doses.
Festival organisers had come under pressure from Tairāwhiti iwi leaders, who urged R&V owners and management to cancel this year’s event over concerns it would lead to the spread of Covid-19 in the region.