Chopped: Hamilton’s Great Kiwi Beer Fest axed due to ‘untenable’ police and DHB conditions

Hamilton’s annual Great Kiwi Beer Festival has been given the chop by organisers due to new and “untenable” conditions laid down by police and the Waikato DHB.

That is despite, the organisers say, them having already made “a number” of concessions for its event next year, and there having been no arrests or treatment by St John for alcohol harm since it’s been held in the city the past two years.

More than 6000 people, which was a 20 per cent increase on last year, flocked to the event in March this year despite the impact ofCovid-19 on the public and brewers.

A string of Kiwi artists, including The Black Seeds and Hollie Smith, also played to the hearty crowd in perfect Waikato conditions.

The police and DHB have been approached for comment, but festival organiser Callam Mitchell said they’ve had to withdraw their application for next year’s festival as they felt local authorities didn’t want it held in Hamilton.

He said they attended a hearing in January and made a number of concessions to appease concerns about getting their licence, including reducing the operating time, removing the VIP area entirely and increasing the number of duty managers to 70.

“Now they want to place further restrictions on the event.

“The unrealistic conditions that the Tri Agency in Hamilton are wanting to place on our alcohol licence would mean we’re unable to deliver the festival without seriously diluting it, which would have a negative impact on the customer experience as well as the trade for breweries.”

He said some of the police and DHB objections, “left us scratching our heads, and left us with the feeling that they simply don’t want the event to take place, so we have decided to withdraw our application and not proceed with the festival”.

There had not been any arrests or alcohol-related St John callouts at the event in either 2020 or this year.

The event had been held in Christchurch since 2012 and had worked hard to build the event into “a fantastic celebration of the craft beer industry in NZ”, it wrote.

It is with regret that we have to announce the Great Kiwi Beer Festival will not be returning to Hamilton in…

“We were genuinely excited to bring the event to the North Island and chose Hamilton as our new home for a variety of reasons.”

“Ultimately police and the DHB want to continue to impose further restrictions on the event, despite themselves having the power to close any stand on the day that they considered was acting in a manner not consistent with the alcohol management plan and/or the Sale & Supply of Alcohol Act, but chose not to do so.”

Mitchell said he was also a bit perplexed at the almost identical objections from both police and DHB.

“Of further concern to us is that the DHB and police provided identical, word for word reports and lists of objections. While we expect these agencies to be collaborating to some extent, they should be providing their own independent reports.”

Mitchell said some of their objections included reducing service times by another hour – which had already been reduced for 2021; because some breweries were playing music the event was now more a “concert”, people were seen with festival wristbands on heading into the city afterwards.

In their view that meant the “amenity and good order to the locality has been reduced”, there wasn’t enough shade, people were sitting on the grass due to a lack of seating options and they wanted a system where the number of drinks could be restricted.

The Christchurch event – set down for January 29 in Hagley Park – is still expected to go ahead.

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