The Operations Team responds to your 2017 Census feedback

Jun 27, 2017 | Collexodus, Exodus, Kiwiburn, Leave no trace, Team Leads

Kiwiburn’s Operations Team Lead, Poppy has taken the time to respond to your questions and comments from this year’s Census. Her role involves overseeing and supporting all the onsite departments, Team Leads and managers, as well as liaising with the Council, landowners, vendors and emergency services. Poppy is onsite for one month as well as planning during the year. She’s been volunteering for Kiwiburn since 2010, with five years in her current role. Amongst various other roles, Poppy has been the Town Planner, MPW Manager, Site Manager Lead, Purchasing Manager and Depot Manager.

Every year we ask participants to complete an online Census to help us better understand the community’s experiences on the Paddock. Poppy tries to look past the negativity and take onboard the constructive feedback, which is greatly appreciated, though there’s a lot of negativity, assumptions, and misinformation which she’s keen to address. Kiwiburn strives to be as transparent as possible, though some decisions that get made don’t always get explained to everyone.

Here she provides insights into why and how these decisions were made. Grab a cuppa and have a read of Poppy’s comments.

Toilets near the river

Unfortunately, we cannot place any toilets in the Forest due to the roads, depending on the weather it is likely that the toilet truck would not be able to get in and out of the Forest to drop them off, clean them and pick them up. Even one dose of heavy rain can make the Forest inaccessible to anything other than a 4wd and unfortunately the porto truck is not 4wd.

Cleanliness of the toilets
Unfortunately the portable toilets cleaning schedule did not quite go as planned, AKA I used to clean and stock all the toilets myself (67 of them) and I dropped the ball in making sure this was picked up by people taking over my roles. I am honestly sorry, the toilets used to be my pride and joy and I was embarrassed by the state of them this year. And the new site layout was untested and we had to do a bit of guess work about where to position them. These factors led to some of the toilets being pretty awful. One of the things participants can do to help us keep the portos clean is let us know when they aren’t. If you spot one that is particularly bad then let someone at the Depot know and they can pass the details onto the crew.

Composting toilets
It is not an option for us to leave the waste in the ground. Any composting toilets would need to have removable storage tanks to collect the waste and we would need to find somewhere / someone who would want that waste. So far I have not found any suitable options. Other issues (water table, consents, budgets, design etc) are manageable but if we cannot find somewhere offsite that can take the waste then we cannot do composting toilets.

Town Planning / Noise / Quiet Camping
There were some unfortunate mistakes made this year in terms of town planning. Placement of Sound Camps being the major one. Massive apologies to anyone who was negatively impacted by this. Many lessons were learned and plans for next year are starting to take shape. We have engaged a professional sound consultant to help place Sound Camps, we are opening up more space for general camping, there is going to be better access between the upper and lower paddocks, there will be better laid out roads with names and we hope to have a space for quietish camping – things are looking good.

The BBQ in the forest
I understand that this is something that people should choose to participate in and apologies to anyone offended by this. Should the BBQ go ahead next year it will be placed by the cabin in the forest so that you do not have to walk past it on your way to the river.

Staying after the festival is over
It has been suggested to allow people to stay onsite once the festival is over as it would be unsafe for them to drive on the Monday. The festival ends at 10am on Monday morning and people need to plan for this – it is your own responsibility to make sure you are in a safe state to drive a car if you have to. There are many reasons that we cannot allow people to stay longer, the main ones being resource consent, lack of security / medics and the need for people to leave so the crew can start packing up. If someone truly has a genuine reason they need to stay longer then come and talk to the Operations Team, otherwise we will just assume you don’t want the party to end and will have to ask you to leave.

The reason we slow exiting traffic down by Greeters is to minimise the number of cars on the one lane, low visibility gravel road. We could not safety allow everyone to leave all at once otherwise we would likely have large exit queues in unsafe places. Potentially, those queues would block incoming traffic including neighbours, farm workers and emergency services. It is easiest to do this on the flat in front of Greeters. The people that have volunteered to direct traffic are MPW – the crew that have already been onsite for three weeks. They work before the festival, during and after. They don’t get paid, they don’t get a free ticket and they work bloody hard. So whilst directing traffic they also ask for donations of any leftover food or booze. Your four leftover beers sure do make a difference to someone who is still onsite for another week, especially for some who can’t afford to buy any beers because they quit their job so they could volunteer. Please don’t be offended if someone from MPW asks you (in a friendly and respectful manner) for any donations. You are truly welcome to say no for whatever reason, though know that all donations mean a lot to the crew.

The Forest
Yes the changes in the Forest were extremely confronting (imagine being the person who signed the death warrants on the trees that got chopped down) though they were deeply considered decisions. I can see it may have looked like a pointless massacre to some people, however there was method to the madness. I can assure you that I spent countless hours thinking and agonising over the options and that no decisions were made lightly. There were many many factors to consider (expert opinions, Kiwiburn use, landowner use, long term Forest plans, impact on remaining trees and plants etc). All of the trees that were removed were non-natives and the long term plan for the Forest is to phase them out and plant natives. All of the work that was done will eventually benefit the Forest. Kiwiburn is only five days and that Forest is much more than our use of it. I have spent a lot of time there over the last four years and have a deep connection with the Forest, so please understand the decisions were not made lightly. A tree branch falling on a participant’s tent at the 2016 event prompted us to have the trees individually assessed for safety to help us make decisions about the Forest work required, and we feel that the risk has decreased significantly. The Forest will be assessed again prior to the 2018 event.

High winds the week before the event, combined with unusable boggy areas and a lack of suitable flat areas prompted us to close the Forest for camping. If we allowed camping there, who would get to camp in the few suitable spots? Would we do first in / first served? A ballot system? Regardless of how we decided, the main nice usable part of the Forest would be chocca with people’s personal tents. It seemed like a waste to me – I would rather see those spaces used as community spaces for AWAKE & AWARE things like art, hammocks, activities, Theme Camps, parties, bloody drumming even. I also had noticed in previous years that everyone just seemed to get stuck in their camps in the Forest, and hoped that by putting everyone up top we could draw the festival out of the trees. Unfortunately this decision was not made until very close to the festival and this meant that no-one had time to adequately prepare to use the Forest in a new way.

The Forest Next Year
Even if we went really hard on Forest work, we will never ever get to a point where we can say that the Forest is 100% safe for camping. We could open up quite a lot of the areas and could probably be confident that a branch wasn’t going to fall on anyone. However no matter how much work we do, there will never be enough room for everyone to camp in there. The feedback on closing the Forest for camping has been really positive. The plan for 2018 is no camping in the Forest, AWAKE & AWARE use only. Knowing this well in advance gives everyone the time to prepare – so get thinking about how you could contribute. More art! More Theme Camps? Less rope!

Drinking Water
Kiwiburn does not provide drinking water to participants. Yes this is not the desert. Yes plastic sucks. Yes there are some taps onsite. However we cannot guarantee the water is safe and we cannot guarantee supply. We cannot risk telling 1800 people there is a supply of water, to then have it make everyone sick or it just stops flowing. In the unlikely event we managed to resolve these issues, we would still need to put in significant time and money to upgrade the infrastructure to support supplying that much water, as the current system would not cope.

Many of the suggestions made in the Census were things that should not and can not be the responsibility of the organisers. Kiwiburn is a do-ocracy and the suggestions below could / should be taken on by those who suggested them and / or others in the community.

– More craft inspired workshops and interactive art installations
Apply for an Art Grant!

– Workshops on masculinity and femininity, extension of brotherhood and Two Moons opening and closing ceremonies, slam poetry about consent (positive and negative experiences)
There are lots of people interested in these important topics so get talking with the community and come up with a plan, the Town Hall is a great place to host a workshop.

– Showers! Make shift shower booths with courtesy curtains, in the forest with a few solar shower bags that people can refill from the river water as they need and hang up for a cold shower, or people can bring their own shower bag (they’re quite cheap) fill it up early in the day, and use later for a warm shower. Environmentally friendly soap necessary of course
Great idea! Just remember to get in touch to discuss grey water

– More shade!
Totally! Keen to create shade for the wider community? Apply for an Innovation Grant!

– Designated trash and recycle drop off
You should probably read the ten Guiding Principles of Kiwiburn to learn more about Leave No Trace.

– Less doof doof music and angry gangsta music, more live sets
Personally I think there needs to be way more angry gangsta music. Maybe you could see if there are others thinking about more live music and you could work together to set up a stage?

– Have a big town clock so People can make it to events on time and not miss out
Apply for an Innovation Grant! Or maybe an Art Grant if it’s cool enough

– Have street names / some kind of grid location system for the general camping area so that it is easier to find things and tell people how to find you
It’s happening bud, just you wait, it is going to be fantastic!

– A jam of musicians around the fire after the burn drumming string and brass
Put something up on the facebook group before the event and see who else is keen? I bet people are. Make it happen champ.

– A fire pit in the Tribal Zone or down by the river that people can retreat to would have been 
We’d love to recruit someone who wants to run the Tribal Zone, hit up the volunteer team if you are keen.

– Communal kitchens
Go on then… shotgun not doing the dishes.

– More activities for children and families would be Great. Workshop to build a solar powered vehicle at the event
Talk to the community, start a kids camp, join a kids camp? If you know how to build one then maybe you could host a workshop at the Town Hall?

– Someone could do an air conditioned or fanned up Theme Camp haha
Make it happen. I’d hang out there.

– Maybe a singles gathering somehow
Speed dating at Town Hall? Pretty sure that happened once? I’m too shy for that sort of thing. But yeah organise something, and remember everyone comes to Kiwiburn for different reasons.

– More emphasis on no in consensual photo taking please, it’s so scary and makes me feel v unsafe
Kiwiburn does have a strict photography policy, I am really sorry that someone did not respect the policy and you. Please report this type of thing to the on duty site manager via the Depot.

– I think Kiwiburn could do more to emphasise the principles of the event
Yeah totally. How do you see this happening? What do you do to emphasize the Principles? When you first came to Kiwiburn what would of helped you better understand the Principles?

– I’d appreciate having a thank you ceremony to actually applaud in some way the efforts of those who dedicate so much to making this happen
Same. Although I wouldn’t go because it would be too awkward.

– More G and Ts
Yes please!

– I’d like people to receive a big warm welcome each time they step into a new space or camp. Kiwiburn can still be a lonely place if you don’t know anyone
You’re telling me mate, try being pegged as the Paddock’s biggest bitch when really you’re just busy, anxious and immensely shy. Seriously though this sucks and I am sorry. I don’t have any constructive suggestions. Maybe this is something that could be brought up on the Kiwiburn facebook group for ideas and feedback?

– Could we throw around some ideas to help create a less drug and drunk culture at the festival. Maybe even some art installations about this
I think this conversation happened on the Kiwiburn facebook group recently?

– The burn itself could have a number of uniquely identifiable posts surrounding the fire so that those of a chemically altered disposition may more easily relocate clothing
Dude I have been saying this for years, someone not me, busy soz needs to do a real fancy coat check before the burn.

– Disseminating more information on how to set up a Theme Camp, think especially tips on better kitchen setup and best practices for camp/personal hygiene
Great idea! Do you run a Theme Camp? Want to write some hot tips for the community or start a conversation on facebook to gather suggestions?

– Somewhere to dispose of feminine hygiene products in the toilets. having to hold onto them and dispose of them yourself is moderately disgusting and a health risk
Pack it in, pack it out AKA If you bought it with you then you need to take it home. I make sure I have a few ziplock bags with me, chuck them in there and take them home at the end. Some tampons in a sealed ziplock bag for a few days is not a health risk.

– There needs to be some sort of lighting on the hill that goes down to the lower paddock that near the portos near Chur. I have seen too many people fall as there was a large drop near the top entrance. It was a bit dangerous.
Noted. This is something we will put on our to do list. Thanks for letting us know about a pretty major hazard and we are sorry it was overlooked this year.

I hope this helps shed some light on your thoughts and suggestions. Have more questions? Email Poppy at and she’ll do her best to answer them.

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