Promoter Dave Roper hasn't put on a show for nearly three years - but he's coming out of retirement for something he calls "really special".

His new festival, Oro 17, is the first music event to be held in Woodhill Forest in Waimauku, north of Auckland, a site normally home to trampers, horse riders and mountain bikers.

And Roper has secured his dream band to headline the one-day event on April 8 in Underworld, the UK electronic duo known for uplifting 90s anthems like Born Slippy.

"It needed to be music that created a good vibe," Roper says. "The vibe that band gives out is something special. It's not dark and moody - it's euphoric, happy ... almost a celebration of life."


Today also sees the rest of the dance-friendly festival's line-up announced, with Orbital's Phil Hartnoll playing a DJ set, as well as performances by Dave Seamen, Jeru The Damaja, Koven, Evil Needle, Feint, SoccerPractise, Greg Churchill, and Dubhead.

Roper says Oro 17, which will also feature boutique food and art installations nestled into the trees, is aimed at those in their 30s, and numbers will be capped at 6000.

He's had to take extreme measures to secure the use of the forest for a festival site, including building a water dam to mitigate fire risks. But he says the results will be worth it.

"The backdrop is these massive tall trees. If you can imagine that when it gets dark and the light hits the forest ... this is the perfect way to say goodbye to summer."

He is launching a new festival at a time when others are struggling. Soulfest has been canned, while annual events Raggamuffin and Auckland City Limits have been postponed,
but Roper, who helped promote the first two Northern Bass festivals, says ticket sales are already ahead of his predictions.

"If you haven't got a cohesive idea it can be risky. You have to have an idea of who you're targeting and create a line-up that makes sense," he says.

"Ticket sales have really surprised me. There's no way this festival is not going ahead. I think we underestimated Underworld, to be honest."

That means Roper is still celebrating signing up his headlining act, a full set from Underworld and their first performance here since appearing in the Boiler Room at the 2003 Big Day Out.

He says he "did a little dance" when the confirmation email came through.

"It's our first year (and) we needed to come out with a bang. If we hadn't have got them maybe we would have put it off for a year," he says. "It had to be perfect."

Who: Dave Roper
What: New music festival Oro 17
Where and when: Woodhill Forest, Waimauku, April 8
Featuring: Underworld Live; DJ Phil Hartnoll (from Orbital); Dave Seamen; Jeru The Damaja; Koven; Evil Needle; Feint; SoccerPractise; Greg Churchill; Dubhead
More information and tickets: