After much deliberation and following the government’s traffic light announcement on Monday 29 November, on Tuesday evening ExCom decided with very heavy hearts to cancel Kiwiburn 2022. A coordinated communications effort has been underway to notify landowners, regional stakeholders, and all team leads and crew about this decision, as well as the wider community.
As can be imagined, this was not an easy decision and there were a number of factors which influenced this outcome:
- Hunterville falls within the Whanganui DHB area, which is currently in red under the new traffic light system. Various projections do not predict this DHB reaching the 90% double vaccine target before the middle/end of January and while it is possible that orange traffic light status could be applied sooner, this cannot be foreseen. No event above 100 people can be held in a red zone as rules stand today.
- The local iwi Ngāti Hauiti, who Kiwiburn is in regular communication with, have expressed some concerns about Kiwiburn going ahead. Even if the local community did not have objections, the influx of 2300 people from all over the country poses an ethical question as it inevitably increases chances of exposure to the Hunterville area.
- ExCom is certainly aware of the enormous amount of time, energy and money that goes into preparations in the last two months for artists, Theme Camps, Effigy and Temple crews and general volunteers every weekend from now on and felt that cancelling now rather than in 2-4 weeks was preferable. While no one has a crystal ball, predictions for the Whanganui DHB area are not favourable and are unlikely to change enough to allow Kiwiburn to go ahead with certainty.
- While financial outlay has been kept as low as possible, December onwards requires an increase in spending on a variety of things such as Art Grants, Effigy and Temple, swag, but also insurance, contracts with security, sanitation, medics and landowners among others. Of course private spending also increases for Theme Camps, some of whom have already been impeded in being able to fundraise, as well as individual participants as infrastructure is gathered and plans are made. It did not seem prudent to continue spending money if the event is in serious danger of not going ahead. While recently announced government grants could be used to recover some event costs, Theme Camps would not have access to this and ExCom felt it was unfair to expect participants to keep spending at their own risk while organisational costs could be covered.
- There have been significant issues sourcing portaloos due to shortages caused by high demand in the construction industry. Lockdowns and COVID restrictions have resulted in construction sites holding onto more units for longer. Arrival of replacement units into New Zealand is also uncertain. As an aside, a trial of composting toilets on site is still going ahead in terms of infrastructure ready for Kiwiburn 2023.
- Various other elements of COVID related uncertainty, such as impact of the new traffic light system on cases and the potential spread, new variants and their unpredictable impact all contributed to the decision. Planning an event for a couple thousand people under these circumstances is perilous when we cannot proceed safely and with certainty.
So, given the fitting manner of our theme, Kiwiburn 2022 TimeTravel will become Kiwiburn TimeTravel 2023. The theme, poster, Effigy and Temple, Theme Camps, registered events and other art pieces will simply carry over, so any hard work you’ve already poured into this is not lost.
We will release information on refunds shortly. Cancellation is unlikely to cause Kiwiburn serious financial harm due to prudent accounting, the ability to carry costs into next year and the delay of significant spending.
We know how much Kiwiburn means to many of you, and that it is your highlight of the year. We also recognise the many volunteers and dedicated Burners in year round roles who work tirelessly toward this one week in January, just for it to not happen! There are so many great things happening across the organisation at present, from the newly formed Community Department and associated teams to Green Kiwi and crew wellness initiatives; from our new volunteer management portal system to forums and support groups for Theme Camps, Artists and so on. We have been overwhelmed by the creativity, can-do attitude and genuine want for better by a lot of volunteer superstars over the last year or two and that energy will not go to waste – We thank and salute you!
The question is, can this be turned into an opportunity? We ask you, the community, on how we might still be able to get together and celebrate the incredible spirit and creativity of Kiwiburners, albeit safely and with certainty?
- Should we hold a virtual event?
- Should there be a small burn somewhere that can be streamed?
- Should there be a few intimate but simultaneous events that can be shared by many virtually?
- Do you have other ideas?
We understand that many of you might have more questions. So we’d like to invite you to an open session with ExCom on 14 December at 19:30 (info to follow) to get any further answers you might seek. ExCom is also keen to hear your thoughts on what an alternative, safe version of Kiwiburn 2022 might look like and how we can support you! While nothing replaces being able to congregate on the Paddock, it is just one year, one instance, one moment before we get to do it again!
We are truly heartbroken that we cannot make it happen this time! But we also firmly believe that Kiwiburn will emerge stronger in the future because we have you, the amazing community, we have spirited and engaged volunteers and dedicated individuals committed to really making Kiwiburn better next year!
Image Credit: Cole Holyoake