Mission Estate Winery's concert venue used to have just one concert a year. But with at least five concerts in 2020, and more big names likely in 2021, there's a call for more investment in the sheep paddock. Christian Fuller reports.
Rowan Kyle loved Elton John's visits to Hawke's Bay.
The experience of thousands singing at the top of their lungs with the Rocketman on his journey through his greatest hits was, in his opinion, magic.
But he walked away feeling the experience could have been even better.
Kyle's got two suggestions for the Mission.
Either drop the price of the wine on offer or go back to bring your own alcohol.
Or, if that's not possible, use the money generated from the thousands of bottles of wine sold, to terrace the bank at the back of what is now Napier's most iconic concert venue.
If the Romans managed to provide permanent setting in their amphitheatres 2000 years ago, then surely, we can do a little better today.
Kyle gawped when told a bottle of wine at the venue was $35.
"Similar wines can be purchased at the local supermarket for around $12 or less, from which I presume the supplier and supermarket can still make a reasonable profit.
"The enjoyment of a wonderful evening was slightly marred by the disappointingly high price."
Kyle congratulated those involved in organising, promoting and delivering a "fantastic" show and reckoned the 70,000-plus who attended across three Mission concerts - Elton John x 2 and Michael Buble x 1- would agree.
"But I think those who attended the concerts would also agree that this monopoly situation shouldn't be used as another opportunity to gouge even more excessive profits from the long-suffering public."
Nestled in the foothills of Greenmeadows, the Mission Estate Winery can host up to 26,000 concert-goers during a show.
Kyle suggested the money raised from alcohol sales should go towards extra seating at the venue.
Last year's Phil Collins Mission Concert hit the headlines when rain and poor footwear choices on the bank led to 13 people breaking bones.
And Elton's Saturday night concert in particular was a fight for seating, as hundreds of general admission ticket holders poured through the gates as they opened, trying to get a good viewing spot.
Kyle said terracing would "provide an increased level of comfort, and more importantly, a much safer position from which to view future events".
"It would also further reduce the risk of the very expensive bottle of wine from rolling down the slope.
"If the Romans managed to provide permanent setting in their amphitheatres 2000 years ago, then surely, we can do a little better today."
Kyle added: "Concert-goers might then feel that they are being treated a little less like sheep on a hillside, even if we are still being fleeced."
Mission Concert Management's Garry Craft said he believed wine prices at the concert were "quite reasonable" when compared to other sporting venues and airports in New Zealand.
"You'd certainly pay a lot more for a drink at Auckland Airport," he said.
"You can't get a beer for less than $10 there and I wouldn't even attempt to buy a bottle of wine there.
"Basically, the cost of putting together the infrastructure to serve that many people is high. We have 350-odd staff just to maintain service. It's a pretty rough and difficult environment for a service."
Craft said patrons needed to stop trying to compare wine prices with what is bought from a supermarket.
"It's just unrealistic. You go to a restaurant and try to find a bottle of wine for under $40 – we're $35."
However, Craft said Kyle's idea of terracing the bank at the back is unlikely.
"The paddock is a sheep paddock for 48 weeks of the year, so there is not a great deal you can do in terms of changes," he said.
"It would not be very practical and not in our plans."