OPINION: The Bay of Plenty is a great place for events. It's located centrally to most other North Island cities.
In Rotorua, there's plenty of accommodation due to its giant tourism industry and as a result, plenty of eateries also.
Local events such as Crankworx and Float bring huge numbers to the region but winter months can be tough for those in the sector. Many hospitality venues rely on profits from the heaving summer months to help tide them over during quieter times. For Okere Falls, located between Rotorua and Tauranga at Lake Rotoiti, earnings from their annual Beerfest plays a significant factor in this.
So to hear the future of Okere Falls Beerfest is now in question due to red tape is sad.
I've visited the Okere Falls Store several times and they do a great job in a unique setting. But I also appreciate why future festivals there are in doubt.
Organisers have learned the 300-ticket festival needs a traffic management plan due to its location at Okere Falls Store on State Highway 33. Such plans cost organisers $5000 this year, putting the affordability of any future festival in doubt.
There's no denying SH33 is a busy highway and combining that fact with hundreds of beer-fuelled party-goers is a precarious combination, at best. But surely there's a better solution? Rotorua is a tourist and events mecca. Letting red tape stymie something that has run successfully for 12 years and injects visitors and money into the local economy seems short-sighted to me.
Instead of working against local event organisers, how about authorities try working with them?
In Tauranga, the city council has previously offered community grants and funding to events requiring traffic management, such as New Year festivities at the beach.
I've also been to events in both Tauranga and Rotorua where Māori wardens or various Lions clubs have volunteered to help with traffic management. Whether they would associate themselves with a drinking festival is another matter but at least it is an option.
Perhaps, Rotorua Lakes Council could consider something similar?