A second man has fallen down an almost vertical cliff near a festival in rural Manawatu.

Early yesterday morning, a young man was flown to Palmerston North Hospital in a critical condition after plunging 70m down the cliff at Vinegar Hill, near Hunterville, north of Palmerston North. He had been trying to get into the Kiwiburn Festival after hours.

Early this morning, the scene was repeated when another man fell - this time 100m - from the same spot.

Fire and Emergency NZ spokesman Craig Dally said they were called about 7.15am. Crews were able to get to the seriously injured man, but like the man injured a day before, he had had to winched out by helicopter.


The man had a broken leg, Dally said, but he was unsure of his other injuries.

St John Ambulance couldn't be contacted.

No one at Palmerston North Hospital could be contacted to confirm each man's condition early this afternoon.

In yesterday's incident, the man was believed to have left the road above the Rangitikei River at 2am and clambered over a fence, then slipped and fallen through thick bush down the cliff.

Fire and Emergency central shift communications manager Carlos Dempsey described the overnight rescue operation as "dramatic and difficult".

A Palmerston North Rescue Helicopter spokeswoman said crews could hear the man but not see him through much of "incredibly intense" three-hour rescue mission.

Dempsey said fire crews Hunterville and Kimbolton and the rescue helicopter spent three hours in pitch darkness to find and reach the injured man who was trapped about 70m down the sheer cliff face.

The Kiwiburn festival is held near the Rangitikei River.
The Kiwiburn festival is held near the Rangitikei River.

The helicopter was eventually able to winch the stricken man out of danger, Dempsey said.


"Access was quite difficult," he said.

The helicopter spokeswoman said the fire service forged the river to pinpoint the man's location and climb up to him.

When this was unsuccessful because of the nature of the terrain, they used a spotlight to find him.

"Shining a spotlight in his direction and getting him to call out allowed his general position to be located."

But even having a general position, the rescue helicopter struggled to find the injured man in the dense bush and trees.

The search was about to be called off when the man was finally spotted in a rock chute.

The helicopter winched a paramedic to the man to stabilise him and pulled him to safety about 20 minutes later. After paramedics provided further treatment at the nearby Reserve, he was flown to Palmerston North Hospital with critical injuries.

The founder of Kiwiburn - New Zealand's version of the Burning Man festival in Nevada - Mark Stirling said the man was part of a group of people who turned up in the early hours of this morning, but found the gate locked as the festival closed its doors overnight.

"So they just decided to park up and sleep and wait for the gate to open in the morning," Mr Stirling said.

"But they had a hitch-hiker with them, who also had a ticket, and he did not want to wait until morning.

"He apparently said stuff like 'oh it's a 24-hour party, we can go in any time'. So he got out of the car, jumped the fence in the darkness, and fell down a cliff."

Mr Stirling said the hitch-hiker got lucky with where he fell.

"If he had fallen the other way, either side, he would have had a significant freefall," he said.

"He decided that he wanted to break the rules, and unfortunately paid the price."

The Wanganui Chronicle was refused entry to festival site.
The Wanganui Chronicle was refused entry to festival site.

During Kiwiburn in 2016 a woman ended up in hospital after a large branch fell on a tent she was in at the festival site.

The incident led to a ban on camping in the forest area of the festival site, which is on private property on the banks of the Rangitikei River near Hunterville.

A St John spokeswoman said the man was still in a critical condition in hospital yesterday.

The Wanganui Chronicle was refused entry to the festival site by the landowner and festival organisers yesterday.