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Army called in to rescue festival-goers

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 11/03/2017

The army says it has rescued at least 500 people stranded by floodwaters at the now cancelled Sundaise Festival near Waihi.

About 1000 people were expected at the music festival held in a beautiful valley surrounded by native bush. The festival started on Friday and was due to run through the weekend.

Major General Tim Gall, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, says 10 soldiers and two trucks were sent from Hamilton and Tauranga to rescue the remaining people at Dickey Flat Road and the campsite in the Karangahake Gorge.

Police said emergency services were called just after midnight when festival goers became stuck and campsites were flooded.

About 800 people had been expected to stay in campsites near the festival.

Many campers were taken in by local residents and housed in farm buildings, and the Whatawhata Hall was opened up to provide shelter.

People were taken to the Salvation Army in Waihi.

Buses were also organised by the Thames Coromandel District Council and Hauraki District Council to transport campers.

Organisers have now cancelled the festival.

People are angry the event was not cancelled earlier, saying the rain was forecast and came after flooding in nearby areas earlier in the week.

"Your negligence and stupidity has resulted in an absolute waste of emergency services time," one person posted on the festival's Facebook page.

Another said it was obvious there were problems at the festival site on Friday.

Others defended organisers, saying their hard work had been for nothing and they had tried to bring an event to the region to help it.

Organiser Matt Griffiths told Radio New Zealand campsites had been moved to higher ground.

"The weather has shifted and gone south of us which is where the rain catches and feeds the river and that's what has caused the problem.

"This week all the rain has been north of us in the Coromandel and our river has been very low flow, and we've had very little rain on the site. Last night for a two-hour period that changed," he said.

The NZDF says HMNZS Canterbury has a scheduled port visit to Tauranga this weekend and crew members have been placed on standby.

"We are ready to provide further assistance to communities in all the affected regions if required," Maj Gen Gall says.

On Wednesday, the NZDF sent several trucks and about 20 personnel to rescue schoolchildren trapped by torrential rains whilst camping in the Hunua Ranges.

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