Final Brass Monkey rumours quashed

Wheels still turning . . . Brass Monkey Rally committee member John Willems, with his 2018 Yamaha Super Tenere, wants to stop speculation next year's event in Oturehua in Central Otago will be the last. PHOTOS: SHAWN MCAVINUE

Rumours next year’s Brass Monkey Rally will be the last are just that – rumours – a rally committee member says.

Rally committee member John Willems, of Dunedin, said the annual rally in Oturehua, Central Otago originated after a group he was in travelled on motorbikes to the Cold Kiwi Rally in Waiouru more than 40 years ago.

Crossing the Cook Strait on the trip back to Dunedin, the group discussed holding a similar event in Otago.

A 6ha rally site on a farm in Oturehua was chosen because it was near Ophir, the coldest place in New Zealand.

About a year later, the Otago Motorcycle Club held the inaugural rally.

About 300 people attended, transforming a farm block into a “tent city”, where a “huge bonfire” roared and a band played.

Each year, the attendance rate grew, peaking at 5000 people at the 10th event.

The people made the rally, he said.

“People are there for a good time and it’s great to see them.”

About 950 patrons attended the 39th rally earlier this month.

A reason for the smaller crowd was three unwarranted and unregistered riders being involved in separate accidents on the Dunstan Trail in 2017.

Consequently, for the past two events the committee decided to stop running an escort along the trail from Poolburn to Idaburn Dam for riders on bikes which were not road legal.

After the accidents, police had checkpoints on the trail.

The club had a good working relationship with police.

“Bikes needed to be road legal and that lowered the numbers down for us . . . The people just didn’t come.”

Other reasons for fewer people attending the event this year included bad weather in Dunedin and other events being held in the city, such as the University of Otago’s 150th anniversary celebrations, he said.

The 40th rally would definitely go ahead next year and a large fireworks display was “on the cards”.

“The club has not made the decision the 40th would be the last.”

A decision on whether a rally would be held in 2021 would be made at a club meeting at the end of this year, then an official announcement would be made.

The 12 people on the committee were volunteers.

Holding the rally was getting harder, including finding volunteers.

“We are finding it difficult to recruit younger riders.”