Local Bay Dreams goers Anika Paton and Gloria O’Connor in the front of other revellers at the festival. Photo: Kate Russell.

Nelson delivers for Bay Dreams


It was hot, it was loud, and it was sweaty, but it was undeniably a success.

The sold-out Bay Dreams festival brought 20,000 music lovers to Trafalgar Park on Friday and promoters say they are hoping to be back in 2020.

With international acts such as Cardi B and Tash Sultana, along with Kiwi favourites Katchafire and Shapeshifter, the crowds were kept happy – although shade, water and sunscreen were all in hot demand as the mercury soared above 26 degrees.

Bay Dreams is one of the most popular festivals of the Kiwi summer music calendar, with the Mount Maunganui event selling out year after year. This is the first time it was held in the South Island.

A pre-party and after-party took place on either side of the main event and camping was provided at Rutherford Park and Saxton Field from 3 – 5 January.

Festival director Toby Burrows hailed it as a “resounding success”.

“All the artists performed amazing sets and were all very happy. The event ran smoothly and the 20,000 strong crowd was incredibly well behaved. The venues worked perfectly and Nelson was a great host city. We definitely want to return in 2020 with an even better event.”

Nelson Police say they were impressed with the overall behaviour of concert-goers, with only six arrests over the three-day period.

The operation to support the festival included a total of 90 police staff dedicated to the venue and campgrounds with 15 of these staff travelling from Canterbury.

Inspector Paul Borrell, Area Commander for Nelson Bays commended revellers for their “buoyant and jovial mood”.

“Police had planned well in advance to provide and encourage a safe environment. It was especially noticeable how concert goers seemed to be looking out for each other, reporting and supporting others who became unwell or distressed, which was fantastic,” he says.

Mayor Rachel Reese says Nelson delivered “superbly” and believes meticulous preparation was the key to the festival’s success.

“Both the Trafalgar Centre and Trafalgar Park were outstanding venues and the festival director thought our facilities for hosting an event like this have been the best he has encountered anywhere in New Zealand.

“Hosting 20,000 people in a population of 51,000 is no small feat.”

Rachel says it would be “wonderful” to see Nelson become a major destination on the touring circuit.

“We’re already seeing an increase in international acts coming our way, with both UB40 and Bryan Adams performing in the coming weeks and months.”

Meanwhile, festival director Mitch Lowe says they made the right decision in choosing Nelson for the festival.

“The city has so much to offer visitors outside of this event … we’d like to thank Nelson for having us.”

Nelson Weekly editorial: Credit where credit is due. When the announcement came through last year that Nelson would host up to 20,000 people at a summer concert, there were, no doubt, those who were waiting for it to turn into a disaster.
There were likely some that wanted it to.
There will always be a contingent of those who want things to stay the same. But what we saw when Bay Dreams came to town last week was Nelson at its aspirational best. It was an attraction that drew (gasp) young people. It was by all accounts very well organised – both by the promoters and by Nelson City Council.
The temporary campgrounds at Saxton Field and Rutherford Park had almost an overkill of staff supervising festival goers. But the results speak for themselves. With only six arrests, it puts the official misbehaving on par with the All Blacks test. Sure, there was some over indulgence and some noise for a couple of days. But amid all that were thousands of well-intentioned young people, who made it a point to come to the region, spend money, have a great time and then go home and tell all their friends about it. The city for those few days had a hum about it that I don’t think has ever been seen. If that isn’t a win, then I don’t know what is.
– Editor.