Risk over our heads: Wānaka festivals and Covid

Rhythm & Alps: New Year's Eve festival Rhythm & Alps was the first of New Zealand's big summer festivals to release its lineup for this summer, announcing early on that the festival would be offering a fully domestic line-up.

When producer Alix Perez moved to New Zealand from the UK with his Kiwi fiance, and launched a sold-out tour with a Rhythm and Alps warm-up gig in Wānaka last month, he was one of the first international performers to play a show in NZ since the Covid-19 outbreak.

Since then, more music artists have reportedly secured government exceptions to enter the country after a fortnight in managed isolation on Critical Purpose Visitor Visas. An Immigration New Zealand spokesperson confirmed to RNZ that the Bay Dreams festival had helped 15 people through this process - just one of the adjustments that festival planners are having to make in light of the ongoing pandemic.

New Year's Eve festival Rhythm & Alps was the first of New Zealand's big summer festivals to release its lineup for this summer, announcing early on that the festival would be offering a fully domestic line-up. Founder and director Alex Turnbull said this was partly to avoid ongoing Covid-10 border restrictions, but also to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the festival by making it “as local to NZ as possible.”

Other Covid-related changes to the festival planning included establishing a dedicated role covering Covid compliance, arranging for increased hygiene messaging across the festival and building contingencies around changes in alert levels.

Turnbull acknowledged that, although the government was keen for large events to run as a way of containing young people enjoying the Christmas and New Year period in a safe environment, at Alert Level 2, the festival would not be operational and refunds would be provided.

Were there to be a change in alert levels during the festival itself, however, Turnbull said they would “absolutely not” be turning the music off and sending guests away. “We would contain them as one bubble,” he said, rather than release them into town.

Turnbull was joined by Nathan White, director of the newly established wine and food festival, Ripe, planned for March 2021, in remaining hopeful that upcoming festivals would be able to go ahead as planned.

White said that, as Ripe was expecting over 2,000 visitors, it would be impossible to operate in a Level 2 situation, but he would seek to postpone the event rather than cancel, if possible. 

“There is a risk sitting over all our heads, but we have to be optimistic,” said White.

Read edition 1002 of the Wānaka Sun here.


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