Peaceful, and wet, start to new year

Last updated 13:00 02/01/2014

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OPINION: The new year has started with a whimper rather than a bang - and that's great. Comparatively peaceful New Year celebrations in the region are a tribute to well organised events, good policing, appropriate laws and bylaws on alcohol consumption and - most important - a "good vibe" among revellers.

Concern over the abandoning of a decade-long provision of the Maitai Camp as a New Year's venue for young people, many of them visiting from Christchurch, proved groundless.

The fear was young drunks would spill across the region, causing "issues" in places like Kaiteriteri, Mapua, Nelson's CBD or the Tahuna Holiday Park. However, there was no repeat of the mayhem that erupted in Tahunanui in 2001 leading to the Maitai camp move, and that is most pleasing.

Not for the first time, the most that many visitors have had to put up with as a new year begins is heavy rain. It is little consolation for people trying to stay dry in wet tents or keep the kids occupied, but the region was not alone, and poor weather seemed to strike much of New Zealand. Often, when conditions are testing in (usually) Sunny Nelson they are significantly worse elsewhere, and at least clothes and canvas tend to dry quickly at this time of year.

There were difficulties too for Nelson North Lions Club and the dozens of stallholders at the annual New Year's Day Tahunanui Arts and Craft Fair. Wiped out by the morning's heavy downpour, the fair has not had to be cancelled due to rain in more than a decade. More rain, however, is one of the significant predictions for this region from scientists studying climate change.

Another major "victim" of yesterday's weather was the Woollaston Jazz And Blues Festival - although typically, organisers were quick off the mark in reducing the impact.

Hit late last month by the sudden closure of key venue the Nelson School of Music for main festival events, the organisers - in the best tradition of jazz - had to improvise yet again overnight in response to the inclement forecast, opting to move a public favourite, Jazz in the Park, indoors. But, as chief organiser Liam Ryan put it, that's jazz - and the show went on regardless.

Though fortunate Old St John Church and its hall in Hardy St was available, it is a reminder of the lack of venues compared with other regions. It also highlights the importance of the purchase of the property by Ali and Eelco Boswijk, given the closure of the SOM auditorium, Trafalgar Centre and pending loss of the Suter Theatre during redevelopment.

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Ryan is among a group of festival organisers who bring much to the region with little recognition. Nelson is a busier, buzzier, better place for its various festivals and, even though he has moved to Christchurch as that city rebuilds, his commitment to music has brought numerous benefits to Nelson.

- Nelson

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