A riot at the BW Festival in Gisborne overnight has seen 63 people arrested, 83 injured and seven people in hospital.
The riot broke out in two of the festival campgrounds last night at about 5.30pm, with the disorder lasting for around three hours.
Police say 63 people have been arrested, 83 injured and seven people are in hospital following a riot in Gisbourne overnight. Photo: File
As well as the injuries to festival-goers, police were pelted with cans and other objects, vehicles were overturned and several fires were lit.
Police say the riot was well-planned and co-ordinated by a core group of festival-goers who were intent on causing trouble. Levels of intoxication were “extremely high”.
Around 7000 young people attended the festival, where campers could bring unlimited amounts of alcohol into the campsites.
Police had opposed the festival’s BYO licence, but it was granted to festival organisers.
Tairawhiti Area Commander Inspector Sam Aberahama says there had been trouble at previous festivals, but tonight’s riot had been the worst.
“This was an intentional riot that was fuelled by alcohol,” says Sam. “It was obvious a plan had been put in place by the main agitators, which quickly spread through the campgrounds.
“We used every available police resource to try to keep control of the crowds.”
The riot began when groups from two neighbouring campgrounds confronted each other at a dividing fence.
That fence was quickly pushed over and both groups began fighting. The disorder then spread throughout the rest of the site.
Police and security staff tried to stop the fighting while also dealing with crowd surges towards a bus loading area where people could be bussed out to the Rhythm and Vines Festival.
Sam says police resources and festival security staff were stretched to the limit and extra staff had to be called in from the Rhythm and Vines festival, which ran simultaneously with the BW Festival.
“A definite mob mentality quickly developed amongst the crowd. It was dangerous for everyone – festival-goers, police, ambulance staff and security staff. It was pure luck that someone didn’t lose their life.”
The riot had spoiled the night for a large number of festival-goers who did not take part in the disorder.
“There were a number of people who weren’t interested in causing trouble and just wanted to have a good time without incident. It’s a shame they had their night ruined.”
Those arrested will be facing various charges ranging from disorderly behaviour to assault.
The riot also put pressure on St John Ambulance staff, who treated 83 people for various injuries, with seven taken to Gisborne Hospital with more serious injuries.
St John Regional Manager Stephen Smith says most of the injuries were from projectiles being thrown, while people were also injured during crowd surges.