Venue change causes backlash

Police and council staff issue a trespass notice to the organisers of the Harvest Festival near...
Police and council staff issue a trespass notice to the organisers of the Harvest Festival near Dunedin on Thursday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
A beleaguered cannabis festival's organiser says he has experienced a backlash from medical patients who had travelled to Dunedin for the event, only for it to be shifted two hours down the road to Southland at the last minute.

Consumer NZ says people who bought tickets to the NZ Harvest Festival on the understanding it would be in Dunedin are entitled to a full refund.

The troubled event had a venue change from Dunedin to a paddock in Waimea, west of Gore, between Riversdale and Balfour.

The change was announced yesterday morning and spurred acceptance from some but angry reactions from others.

The festival was set to start today on council reserve land near Dunedin, to coincide with 4/20 (April 20), a worldwide day of cannabis celebration.

It ran into trouble before it began, when Dunedin City Council chief executive Sue Bidrose sent a letter to organiser Joe Nicolson, asking him not to proceed with the event.

Council community services general manager Simon Pickford and a police officer issued trespass notices as organisers were setting up on Thursday.

Dr Bidrose said the council was not prepared to allow an event to be held on council-owned land without a permit.

Speaking from the new venue at a privately-owned site near O'Shea Rd, Waimea, yesterday, Mr Nicolson said he felt for people who had travelled from around the country and sourced accommodation in Dunedin.

"I feel terrible for them ... I've been put in a really terrible position thanks to everything that's gone on."

He had experienced a lot of support but also a "bit of a backlash", including from medical patients unable to undertake the journey south.

"The backlash hasn't been pleasant from everyone."

Mr Nicolson continued to maintain a police officer had suggested Woodside Glen as a venue, a claim police have denied.

Headliners Tiki Taane and Knights of the Dub Table were still set to play and buses would run at 8am and noon from the Whakamana Cannabis Museum in Princes St to the new venue, he said.

Asked about refunds, Mr Nicolson, also known as Growseph Green, said he would be handling them on a "one-on-one basis".

"In terms of what they get ... it's up to my discretion at the time."

However, Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson said the festival could not leave punters high and dry, as event promoters were obliged under the Consumer Guarantees Act to carry out their services with reasonable care and skill.

"If you bought a ticket to the Dunedin event, and aren't able or don't want to travel [south] to attend, you're entitled to a refund.

"If they advertise an event at a particular location, and then change the venue to a site that's a significant distance away, they can't leave customers unable to attend out of pocket."

The Whakamana Cannabis Museum in Princes St will host some workshops, music acts and any vendor who was set to attend the festival but was unable to travel to the new location.

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