A security expert is calling out a Hunterville festival saying it should take responsibility for an incident in which a man fell from a cliff whilst trying to gain entry after hours.

The man in his 20s was taken to Palmerston North Hospital in a critical condition after plunging 70m down a cliff after trying to get into the Kiwiburn festival near Hunterville last Friday.

The following night, a second man also fell - this time 100m - from the same spot. Both men were airlifted to hospital after challenging rescues.

Paul (not his real name), who has over 20 years' experience managing security at festivals all over the New Zealand, said both incidents could have been prevented if Kiwiburn had met its health and safety obligations.

Paul is a close friend of the first man who fell, who is now fighting for his life, and has been by his hospital bed supporting him and the family.


He said his friend was transferred to Wellington Hospital on Thursday in a stable condition with serious injuries. The man lives in Wellington.

"He has two broken vertebrae in his neck, a broken pelvis and a broken shoulder. It's pretty bad, he came pretty close to death."

Paul said that the whole story had not been told.

His friend had flown into Auckland from Thailand especially for the festival. He hitched a ride with a group of girls who were also going to the festival but they didn't arrive until 3am on Friday.

All of his gear was already inside the festival with other friends.

The gates closed at midnight and the group were denied entry, despite having tickets and explaining why they were late.

They left, and drove half way down the driveway where they had planned to sleep for the night.

Paul said his friend had been to Kiwiburn many times before, he had a ticket and didn't want to miss out.


"He knew the river was close by and he could try get in that way."

Unfortunately, he crossed a fence, slipped and fell through thick bush down the cliff at Vinegar Hill Domain, south of Hunterville.

The founder of Kiwiburn - New Zealand's version of the Burning Man festival in Nevada - Mark Stirling denied Kiwiburn had any responsibility for the accident as it happened outside of the festival site.

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

But Paul said he did not feel the festival had met the minimum health and safety requirements.

"Part of legislation from Worksafe New Zealand refers to any person conducting a business undertaking to have reasonable practicums to ensure the safety of any patron or person involved. I don't feel Kiwiburn has done that."


Paul said all the other festivals he had worked for that were running for more than 24 hours had every gate manned and they always made exceptions for the rules.

"There is always different circumstances. I've been involved in festivals way in the middle of nowhere. Someone might get a flat tyre or have travelled miles to be at your festival and you can always make an exception to ensure their safety."

He said there were people who would spend two days planning a way to get in and they would have people monitoring the area to ensure their safety.

There were 1800 people who attended the event and six security guards on duty each night of the festival, with two stationed at the entrance gate.

A Kiwiburn spokesperson said, despite the man having a valid ticket and being known by some of the volunteers, he arrived too late.

"Each incident occurred outside the festival site. Kiwiburn wishes both men a speedy recovery."


But Paul said for the same accident to happen within two days was a concern.

"I just don't want this kind of thing to happen ever again and this issue needs addressing."