Food festival kicked out

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Taste of Auckland not allowed to use Victoria Park under new rules set by local board

Cooking personalities often seen there include former MasterChef winner Nadia Lim (picture), Annabelle White and Michael Dearth.
Cooking personalities often seen there include former MasterChef winner Nadia Lim (picture), Annabelle White and Michael Dearth.

An Auckland food festival will have to look for a new venue after a decision to limit the number of days an event can close off an inner-city park.

Taste of Auckland — one of the country's biggest and most popular food and wine festivals — has attracted up to 23,000 people to Victoria Park each year for the past five years.

With hundreds of artisan food producers, boutique wineries and top restaurants showing off their wares, the four-day event is a huge bonus for the city during November.

Cooking personalities often seen there include former MasterChef winner Nadia Lim, Annabelle White and Michael Dearth.

But the Waitemata Local Board has effectively kicked the event out of the park through rules decided on at a meeting this week.

Under the Victoria Park Event Guideline, no event will be able to use the park for more than five days.

The decision comes after complaints — particularly from local sports clubs — about the state of the sand carpet fields after events such as Taste of Auckland.

Festival director Rob Eliott said organisers were disappointed by the decision, acknowledging that the festival brought in a lot of money to Auckland.

"There's this ambition to host major events in Auckland, yet here we are and they're not letting us use it as a venue. It's very frustrating. Victoria Park has been a great venue and it's about what's good for the city. We know from the local businesses we're in touch with that people go out to restaurants and bars afterwards and that's good for the economy."

Mr Eliott said it was simply not viable for the festival to set up, hold the event and then pack up in five days. It usually took about 10 days.

"There's a lack of large, flat spaces for events like this in Auckland."

The park is used by a number of groups and sports teams throughout the year, including local rugby league, cricket, football and touch teams.

It is also very popular with the public and the only other big event held there is the Auckland Marathon, which uses the park for a day.

Grafton United Cricket Club chairman Nicholas Albrecht praised the board's decision, acknowledging that having Taste of Auckland at Victoria Park had badly damaged the grounds last year.

Sports teams had to wait up to six weeks over summer — the most popular time to use the area — before they were allowed on the grounds.

"Is the park there for commercial events or is it there for the public and sports events? If the grass is covered for more than five days, the grounds are destroyed.

"I think the board's decision is courageous ... the park should be for local communities and not for big commercial events."

Waitemata Local Board chairman Shale Chambers did not return messages yesterday.

However, a spokesman for Mayor Len Brown said: "The mayor's office is actively working with (Taste of Auckland) and Ateed to explore options to retain the event in central Auckland."

The spokesman would not go into details or say whether there was still a possibility for the event to stay at Victoria Park.

- NZ Herald

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