New Zealand music festivals

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Mountain Rock with Kevin Borich on stage
Nambassa 1979 aerial
Dave Dobbyn
Mountain Rock 3
Back stage pass
AAA pass for Mountain Rock hand-signed by promoter
Strawberry Fields AAA (access all areas) pass
Big Day Out access pass
Dave Dobbyn
Concert for the Deaf
Mountain Rock t-shirt
Brown Trout 83 Logo

Music festivals have a long and chequered history in New Zealand. The first large outdoor rock music festival was The Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival in 1973. The largest was the 1979 Nambassa festival, one of several Nambassa festivals held around that time, in Golden Valley, just north of Waihi.

"There are regular jazz, folk, ethnic and country music awards and festivals, some of which have been in existence for decades. Large music festivals, for example Sweetwaters Music Festivals, Nambassa and The Big Day Out have been staged periodically since the 1970s", says Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand.[1]

Parachute Music Festival is a Christian music festival held in New Zealand. It is one of New Zealands largest music festivals and it is the Southern Hemispheres largest Christian music festival.

On March 27, 2014 Parachute Music released a statement on its facebook and its website announcing that Parachute Music Festival would no longer be running.


Nambassa 1979 was the largest music event in New Zealand. "Nearly 60,000 came, making it, per capita, the world’s largest festival of its type." "Nambassa will be remembered for many things. It was the largest campsite, the biggest and brightest party, and the best attended and most successful musical and cultural event ever in New Zealand."

Major festivals[edit]

  • Parihaka International Peace Festival. The farmland close to the Parihaka Marae is turned into an international festival each year with music and markets. January 2007 saw 7000 visitors with Dave Dobbyn headlining the main stage. There were two smaller stages and a speakers forum that were all well attended. Wood and rock carvers worked on their pieces throughout the 3 day festival.
  • 1973, 3 days, 6–8 January, The Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival - Farm at Ngaruawahia, 19 kilometres north-west of Hamilton, on the Waikato River.
  • Redwood music festivals - Farm/orchard at Redwood Park, West Auckland.
  • Waikino music festival 1976 - Farm at Waitawheta near Waikino, between Waihi and Karangahake Gorge. Pre-event run by Nambassa.
  • Hinuera Music Festival - Farm at Hinuera, near Matamata.
  • Concert for the Deaf - Sports (rugby) stadium in Hamilton.
  • Nambassa Music and alternatives festivals 1978, 1979, 1981 - Farm in Golden Valley, north of Waihi and Waitawheta valley near Waikino.
  • Sweetwaters Music Festivals - Farm near Ngaruawahia; farm near Pukekawa,
  • Mountain Rock Music Festivals - Farm near Pahiatua
  • Strawberry Fields Music Festivals - Farm near Queenstown; farm at Te Uku near Raglan.
  • The Gatherings - Canaan Downs, Takaka Hill, near Nelson (96/97, 97/98, 98/99, G2000) and Cobb Valley, Golden Bay, near Nelson (G1 and G2).
  • The Moos - Check-Point Charlie 2001. Farm (sheep station) near Rimutaka Forest park.
  • The Phat Festivals - Maitai Valley, near Nelson, and Inangahua. The 2007 event was called 'Phat07 Bass Camp'
  • Big Day Out - Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
  • Big Gay Out - Pt Chevalier, Auckland
  • Parihaka - Taranaki
  • Rhythm & Vines - vineyard near Gisborne
  • Parachute Music Festival - A contemporary Christian music held since 1995 and attracting around 30,000 people each year to Mystery Creek, Waikato.
  • Camp A Low Hum - Purposefully small music festival in Wellington each year over Waitangi Weekend. 50 bands over 3 or 4 days.
  • Soundscape (New Zealand festival) - Hamilton's CBD. Several stages spread over Alexander St in the central city.
  • Splore - Tapapakanga Regional Park. Ten years festival.
  • Swampfest - Palmerston North's Globe Theatre
  • Toots & Grooves - Wellington's ska festival over 2 days.
  • G-TARanaki Guitar Festival - International guitar festival in New Plymouth, Taranaki.
  • Brown Trout Festival - 1980, 1983, on a farm east of Dannevirke
  • Te Wairua - January 1986-89 and Gathering 1989 and Gathering 1990 (not connected to the Canaan Downs Gatherings); New Age festivals held on a farm east of Owhango on the bank of the Whakapapa river. No mainstage, but a marquee and permanent building as HQ. Intensive, day-long Native American style sweat lodges were a feature of these festivals. Te Wairua is Māori for "The Spirit".
  • Zombies' Jamboree - c1987 acoustic music festival at Muhunoa, east of Ohau, Horowhenua

Memorable events[edit]

  • The Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival - Corben Simpson removed all his clothes on stage and was reported nation-wide in the media, Black Sabbath burned a cross on the hill while getting the entire audience to light a match or lighter. "Todd (Hunter) ... gathered some friends and fellow performers for an appearance at the Great Ngaruawahia Music Festival. They wrote original songs for their set list, and someone pulled the name "Dragon" out of an I Ching book. Their performance at the Ngaruawahia Music Festival led to a better gig, a few weeks performing at the Occidental Hotel in Auckland."
  • Sweetwaters Music Festival - On closing night with jam packed traffic, A man had a serious seizure, a doctor was called via helicopter, the police boat transferred the man across the Waipa river to a waiting ambulance, bound for Waikato hospital. On opening night a girl broke both ankles while riding the bonnet of a car into the farm.
  • Hinuera - Mother Goose.
  • Hinuera - Ragnarok The main stage stopped due to rain, a rapid system was put together in the Barn for Ragnarok, using Greg Peacocks Cerwin-Vega composite bins, previously used as cross stage side fill monitors, on the main stage.


  • Keighley, Daniel. Sweetwaters: The Untold Story. Reviewed by Simon Sweetman: "Daniel Keighley was the man behind the financial disaster that was Sweetwaters ’99. He was charged with fraud and jailed and Sweetwaters: The Untold Story is his account of what went wrong. Billed as an autobiography."[1]
  • Nambassa: A New Direction, edited by Colin Broadley and Judith Jones, A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1979.
  • Dix, J. (1988) Stranded in paradise: New Zealand rock'n'roll 1955-1988. Wellington: Paradise Publications. ISBN 0-473-00639-1.


  1. ^ Nancy Swarbrick. "Creative life", Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 18 November 2005.

External links[edit]