Midwinter Carnival postponed

Dunedin Midwinter Celebrations Trust chairman Paul Smith has postponed this month's moonlit garden-themed Dunedin Midwinter Carnival to next year. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

The Dunedin Midwinter Carnival will return next year but without a fireworks display due to increasing difficulties meeting safety requirements, an organiser says.

Dunedin Midwinter Celebrations Trust chairman Paul Smith said the Covid-19 pandemic forced its annual carnival in central Dunedin to be postponed a year.

The carnival was scheduled for June 27 – the Saturday closest to the longest night of the year.

Despite the nation entering Alert Level 1 on Tuesday, which allows large crowds to gather, the event took months to organise.

Past carnivals included a procession of about 1000 people, giant lanterns, stilt-walkers, dancers and drummers, followed by a fireworks display in the Octagon.

“It’s disappointing we can’t go ahead with the event but it’s given us a chance to think about how we want to do it in the future.”

The trust had been investigating creating carnival “zones” to be part of the event next year, such as a lantern display in the First Church grounds after the procession.

Another zone being investigated was a “large scale projection” of images on a building in the Octagon following the procession.

The projections were likely to replace the fireworks, he said.

It had become “increasingly difficult over the last couple of years” to hold a fireworks display with up to 30,000 people in the Octagon.

To meet Dunedin City Council’s safety requirements, the crowd had to be excluded from a large section of the Octagon before the fireworks display began.

“Trying to move that crowd is very hard – they don’t want to move.”

The tighter restrictions were implemented after Dunedin man Wayne Boss lost sight in his right eye after being hit by debris during the council’s fireworks display in the Octagon on New Year’s Eve in 2016.

Swapping the fireworks for a projection would transition the event from a “big bang” finish to a “more sustained experience” to keep the crowd engaged at the event for longer.

“We are all about the atmosphere and the magic and I think we can replace that big bang with something equally magnificent.”

A “test projection” would be trialled on a building in the Octagon this winter, he said.

The theme of the carnival this year was to be “a moonlit garden” including lanterns made to look like flowers and animals, such as foxes.

The same theme would be used for the carnival next year, he said.

The carnival was launched in 1997 and had been cancelled twice before – due to snow and a “strike” to highlight a lack of constant funding for the event.