Kelly Makiha is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Raggamuffin not wanted back in Rotorua, says promoter

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Thousands of people attended Raggamuffin in Rotorua. PHOTO/FILE
Thousands of people attended Raggamuffin in Rotorua. PHOTO/FILE

Raggamuffin's promoter wanted to bring the popular reggae festival back to Rotorua, but the local council didn't want it.

Promoter Andrew McManus has told the Rotorua Daily Post today he was wrong to take the popular reggae festival from Rotorua and move it to Auckland in 2015.

It was announced today Raggamuffin would be held for the last time next month in Auckland, after starting in Rotorua in 2008.

Mr McManus said he tried to get it back in Rotorua, but the Rotorua Lakes Council said no.

"I would have loved to have come back but I had the door slammed in my face and told I was not welcome.

"You [the council] are going to put your personal vendetta ahead of what is good for the city. We were bringing $3 million to $5 million to the local economy."

But council sport and recreation manager Rob Pitkethley said Mr McManus was not told he wasn't welcome in Rotorua.

"It was explained to him we could not consider it at this time, that we had other events we were committed to and supporting. We acknowledged things could change but said that in the medium term we were fully committed already."

Mr Pitkethley said since the event was taken elsewhere, the council committed to other events.

"Mr McManus contacted us last year wanting to put the event on in February this year. That was too short a timeframe for us to consider it for this year and council has already allocated its events attraction funding for this financial year.

"The proposed timing of the event, Waitangi weekend, also clashes with events elsewhere in the Bay of Plenty region such as One Love in Tauranga which is a similar event. At this time of year in Rotorua there is also already pressure on our accommodation sector," Mr Pitkethley said.

Mr McManus said he had hoped to to return the festival to Rotorua in a bid to build it back to its heyday when it attracted 30,000 people. At the final concert in 2014, 14,000 attended.

He said Rotorua people stopped supporting the event, with ticket sales for locals dropping from 35 per cent to 7 per cent. However, if he brought it back he wanted to try and win the locals back, possibly with cheaper tickets.

He said instead locals left Rotorua during Raggamuffin weekend and rented their homes to Aucklanders.

Given most of the ticket holders came from Auckland, Mr McManus said he made the decision to end the Rotorua contract in 2014 - a year early. At the time he owed the council $132,000 but that money had since been repaid in full.

"I believe it was an error in my judgement [to move it to Auckland] ... I made a mistake."

Raggamuffin enjoyed some of the world's biggest reggae stars including the inaugural line-up of UB40 (full band), Maxi Priest, The Wailers and Arrested Development.

The festival had since featured others including Lauryn Hill, Billy Ocean, Damian, Stephen and Ziggy Marley, Eddy Grant, Shaggy, Jimmy Cliff, Mary J Blige and Ali Campbell.

"Along with Ali and the other original members of UB40 we all thought it would be a great idea to start a purpose-built reggae festival and the result was the birth of Raggamuffin.

"The culture and peaceful vibes of the Kiwi people ensured New Zealand was the obvious place to start and home Raggamuffin."

Mr McManus said Raggamuffin had been an amazing journey and he was proud it had been an iconic part of New Zealand summers for so many years.

The final festival will be Raggamuffin X, the 10th anniversary of the festival, at The Trusts Arena on Saturday February 18.

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