Party fizzles in favour of picnic

All dressed up and nowhere to go

TOM HUNT
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2013
Wellington New Years
ROSS GIBLIN/ Fairfax NZ

MISSING OUT: Luka Mudgway, 4, and sister Ruby, 6, of Khandallah, are disappointed there won’t be any city council New Year celebrations this year. 

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The weather looks likely to come to the party tonight, but Wellington City Council won't.

While the likes of Palmerston North, Napier, and Taupo will see in 2014 with council-funded events, the Wellington council has ditched its family-friendly celebrations in favour of a picnic tomorrow.

It is the first time in more than a decade that the council has not held a celebration at Frank Kitts Park or Civic Square.

It will also be the first time the city's bars have been restricted to closing no later than 4am.

Council spokesman Richard MacLean said it was an "operational" decision not to have the New Year's Eve event this year, and councillors did not vote on it.

Earlier this month, the council retired Christmas decorations around the city, including the Midland Park tree. Mr MacLean said that move attracted "substantial amounts of accusations that we were Grinchy" - and like that decision, the New Year's Eve event would be reviewed and reconsidered for next year.

It traditionally had a relatively low turnout, in part because no alcohol was allowed, and also because the city emptied out around New Year, he said. "It usually ends with a bit of a whimper rather than a bang."

The event traditionally cost the council a four-figure or low five-figure sum.

Tomorrow's picnic at Waitangi Park would cost "significantly more", Mr MacLean said. "We think we will pull in more people on New Year's Day."

The event, from 11am to 4.30pm, features Trinity Roots, Eb & Sparrow, and Vanessa Stacey, and is being marketed as "good food, great music and fun activities for the kids".

But, for Khandallah mother Amy Turner-Mudgway, whose children Ruby and Luka, then 5 and 3, were among the first up dancing at Frank Kitts Park last year, the alternative doesn't cut it.

"That is not quite the same. It's fun for the kids to be out in the evening. It feels fun and special for them."

She was planning to take the children to Frank Kitts Park again - until she found out yesterday that there would be no event.

Neither the alcohol ban nor last year's strong winds deterred the family from having a good time.

Ruby, now 6, was disappointed the event was not happening this year. She said last year's high points included the fire dancing - and seeing herself in The Dominion Post the next day. "I want to go," she said.

By comparison, Palmerston North City Council is funding a party in The Square with acts including The Katy Perry Show, The Monroes, Kiwibop, Captain Festus McBoyle and Truly Made.

It has a children's countdown at 9.30pm, and countdown with fireworks at midnight.

Napier City Council is hosting a family-friendly New Year's Eve event at the Sound Shell. It kicks off at 8.30pm with Lisa Tomlin and her Big Bang Band, ahead of fireworks just after midnight.

Taupo District Council, along with the Tuwharetoa Maori Trust Board, has celebrations by the lake including a DJ, a lolly scramble, giveaways and fireworks to mark New Year at 9.30pm and at midnight.

But closer to Wellington is a dearth of council-run events. Porirua, Kapiti Coast, Upper Hutt, Lower Hutt, Masterton and South Wairarapa councils confirmed they had no party plans. Carterton District Council's website does not advertise any council-run New Year's Eve events.

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Whatever people have planned in the lower North Island today and tonight, the weather should be clear, dry, and relatively still, MetService says. It is forecasting daytime temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius in Wellington today, 22C in Masterton, 26C in Hastings, 21C in Taupo and Whanganui, and 20C in Palmerston North.

- The Dominion Post

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