Streets ahead of last carnival

21:15, Mar 04 2009
BRAZILIAN TOUCH: A member of the Batucada band performs for the crowds along Courtenay Place during Wellington's Cuba St Carnival.

The carnival is over but for a record 150,000 visitors who packed central Wellington for the 12-hour street party, it is a day few will forget.

Organisers said the 10th biennial Cuba St Carnival was the most successful yet. Revellers sampled music, stalls and performances, culminating in an extravagant night parade.

The carnival attracted 50,000 more revellers than in 2007, making it one of the largest events of its kind held in Wellington. The Return of the King world premiere in 2003 attracted about 100,000.

A police spokesman said for the size of the crowds in Cuba St, Courtenay Place and surrounding streets, people were largely well behaved. About 50 people were arrested, mostly for offensive behaviour, assault and liquor ban breaches.

Artistic director Chris Morley-Hall said the event was huge. "The weather we were very fortunate with, and it was better than what we all expected." Though the carnival, which had more than 2000 people running it, went smoothly, there were a few delays during the parade, and some onlookers struggled to see in crowds six deep behind barriers.

"Inherently an event like this is going to have its issues," Mr Morley-Hall said. "[The carnival] is a huge event to to put on logistically. We only have a few hours to pack it in and pack it out, so there's always going to be issues. But we really try to mitigate as much as we can. All in all it went very smoothly."


Some shopkeepers, while supportive of the carnival concept, said more communication was needed from organisers and Wellington City Council about changes.

Courtenay Place was closed to traffic all day for the first time. Robyn Bowers, who owns Bennetts Gift World in Courtenay Place, said signs put up on Friday did not state the street would be closed, confusing shoppers. She had less customers than on a normal Saturday.

"It's disappointing that they don't communicate with us and we suffer."

Sue Lee, owner of the Metshop in Swan Lane off Cuba St, said custom did not drop, but she believed the carnival had become too big and retailers had been forgotten.

"I don't want to come across all grumpy, I can see that thousands of people love it. But it's not a bonus day. It's very hard work and extremely loud. I'm glad it's over."


The Dominion Post