A festival of absence

The Dunedin summer so far has been a bit damp, in both weather and the amount of activity with which the public can become involved.

Apart from an Octagon party on New Year's Eve, public events have been scarce.

The Dunedin City Council denies the city's annual summer festival is on its last legs, despite evidence to the contrary being there for all to see.

A quick glance at websites around the country shows Auckland - albeit a much larger city - has two significant events on this weekend, starting with the Federal St Summer Festival tomorrow.

On Saturday, the Federal St festival continues along with the Chinese New Year Festival & Market being held in Epsom.

Later this month, as part of Auckland Anniversary Day, the Ports of Auckland hosts a weekend-long festival on its wharves.

In Hamilton, an arts festival at the Hamilton Gardens continues for 10 days.

Australian pianist David Helfgott, whose life was made into the movie Shine, is the star performer.

The city hosts a wide range of family activities alongside the arts and culture ones more suited to an adult audience.

Wellington seems to suffer the same problem as Dunedin - a long spread-out series of mainly cultural events but with a designated summer programme for children involving plenty of outdoor activities.

Christchurch is still in thrall of the Busker Festival which, despite being hampered by the weather, is still providing audiences young and old with some outlandish entertainment.

A look at the Dunedin events calendars, both the one run by the DCC and a nationally-based events finder, is a sad indictment of what the wider city residents have come to expect.

Apart from the New Year's Eve party in the Octagon, the cupboard is bare.

The Vero International Festival of Historic Motoring attracted 600 vehicles to the city, but that had little to do with the council.

An orientation event in Forsyth Barr Stadium is listed for students and the Lions Lark in the Park musical concert series will be run in the Dunedin Botanic Garden.

The Masters Games will bring thousands of people to the city, but again that is not the sort of event which can be labelled a summer festival for residents and visitors.

The council confirms the annual Octagon Time Buster and the Outram Rodeo will not be held during this year's month-long festival, raising questions about the Time Buster's future.

Many will be surprised to find Dunedin even has a month-long festival and will be asking a festival of what?

The Dunedin to Brighton Veteran Car Rally, run last Friday, has also been dropped.

The Outram Rodeo will not be held during the summer festival because this year's rodeo is a significant national championship and its national governing body has moved the event to March.

The council names what it calls traditional events being held this year but in all honesty, a publicly-paid official claiming, hand on heart, events such as the Taieri A&P Show, the Brighton Gala Day and the Waikouaiti Rodeo are part of a month-long festival is galling.

Many years ago, a week-long festival was the highlight of the year with the fun events well supported by residents.

The decision to shift the festival to a month-long event must now be seen as a mistake.

The council last year was almost torn apart by financial scandals and continuing animosity among councillors who are up for re-election this year.

Quite simply, both arms of the Dunedin City Council are letting themselves and ratepayers down by not taking a more proactive role in providing summer events in the city.

Having the streets packed with cruise ship passengers is not an alternative to a festival.

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