Another great Lakeside Concert, this time marking 25 years of quality entertainment for the people of Rotorua. The concert has been missing for the last few years – like so many events, cancelled due to Covid-19.
What we see on the night is a credit to all those who have worked tirelessly over the previous 12 months to ensure everything goes to plan. It does so every time.
This year for the first time the event was alcohol-free.
But that’s not exactly correct.
The general public was banned from bringing any alcoholic drinks to the concert. But in the VIP enclosure, in full view of the public, alcohol was provided.
After 7 o’clock, a cash bar was available.
In my view, an event is either alcohol-free, and that applies to the whole concert area, or not at all.
I do not like what I believe is a “them and us” approach.
Over the years my friends and I have taken our seats, blankets, platters and bubbles along to the concerts and sat and enjoyed the evening’s entertainment. Around us, other families are doing the same.
We always try to get as close to the stage as possible. I can’t recall ever seeing objectionable behaviour. But I know it happens and I presume alcohol to be the culprit.
It saddens me that a family event, with adults enjoying a wine or two, must change their behaviour to cater to the lowest common denominator.
There is much talk about New Zealand’s dangerous drinking culture and I would agree we have a problem.
But I believe we should be investing more in education, highlighting the harms of excessive drinking, rather than taking a blanket approach such as banning alcohol at fun family events.
What we seem to be saying is that alcohol and family events are not compatible.
When I lived in Switzerland, alcohol was always available at events and gatherings, big and small.
From an early age, children were exposed to responsible drinking. In New Zealand we know in some families, responsible drinking is a big misnomer.
But I still think by far the majority of families who attend the Lakeside concerts do so to enjoy themselves, and not to get intoxicated and obnoxious.
The police presence on Saturday night was very noticeable. They want concert-goers to enjoy themselves and be safe.
As a member of the public, I certainly don’t want to make their job any more difficult than it already is on a Saturday night.
If they think it is necessary, for public safety reasons, that the event be alcohol-free, I can live with that.
And I hope they will tell us if the ban had the desired effect they wanted.
The invited guests and concert sponsors enjoyed their refreshments in the VIP enclosure before heading off to their reserved seating.
I don’t believe for one moment any sponsor would pull their sponsorship of the event in the future if they were advised the VIP enclosure is also to be alcohol-free.
If it’s good enough for the public to comply with the alcohol ban, then in my opinion that applies to the VIP enclosure as well.
In my view, there should be no areas exempt.
The families who turn out every year to enjoy a fantastic evening’s entertainment have sponsored the concerts too – by their presence in the thousands.
Let the rules apply equally to all.
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait has worked in the private, public and non-profit sectors. Today she writes, broadcasts and is a regular social issues commentator on TV. Of Te Arawa, Merepeka believes fearless advocacy for equity and equality has the potential to change lives.