Thousands sign petition to cancel Rhythm and Vines amid fears of COVID-19 surge

Thousands have signed a petition to see the annual New Year's Eve festival Rhythm and Vines cancelled amid fears an influx of visitors could be catastrophic for Gisborne - but organisers say they're "working closely" with the community. 

The future of this year's festival continues to hang in the balance as organisers consider the Government's new COVID-19 Protection Framework and the impact of border openings and vaccination rates around the motu. 

Within the Tairāwhiti DHB, 86 percent of residents have received their first dose of the vaccine, while just over 74 percent have had their second - a far cry from the 90 percent overall target. 

A petition called 'Cancel RnV in Gizzy. Protect the locals' launched on has received nearly 2500 signatures at the time of writing, with hundreds airing concerns the "risk is too high", particularly for the unvaccinated and immunocompromised people in the area. 

"We don't want this concert to go ahead as it will be putting locals of Gisborne in danger of COVID-19 and Delta being spread in our community," the petition blurb reads.

The statement highlights the risk of "out-of-towners" flooding into the area bringing "thousands of potential cases", and suggests that vaccine certificates could be fraudulently obtained. 

"Our elderly and children will be the most vulnerable. PROTECT OUR LOCALS!!!!" it continues. 

While Rhythm and Vines did not comment on the petition, a statement given to Newshub said organisers were "working collaboratively and closely with the Gisborne community, key stakeholders and local authorities", adding they would provide an update "in due course". 

Those who signed the petition said they wanted their whānau and friends to be "safe in their homes and region without added worry from thousands of holidaymakers". 

"RnV promoters... money is worth more to you than the lives of people in this city and you're going to gamble with our lives. Wot a bunch of stink fullas [sic]," one comment read. 

"The risk of tragedy for Gisborne residents is too high to allow RnV to go ahead," said another. 

Several commenters noted that local events such as the Gisborne A&P Show and Christmas Parade had been cancelled, making it unfair to invite a possible 20,000 people to the area. 

Meanwhile, ticket holders have begun to air their frustrations on RnV's social media channels, demanding to see a confirmed lineup and be told whether the event will go ahead or if they should change their plans.