Rhythm & Alps 2022 takes last-minute line-up change in its stride as festival gets underway without Dimension

Rhythm & Alps is the South Island's largest New Year's Eve festival and it's in full swing, taking a last-minute line-up change on the chin and forging ahead into 2022. 

New Year's festivities are also helping Queenstown reclaim its reputation as a tourist town, even if the revellers are just from other parts of New Zealand. 

While the central Otago town isn't as busy as it was pre-COVID, at least the streets aren't completely empty.

"We came for a family holiday and are about to go for a ride in the boat. It's gonna be amazing," one traveller to Queenstown told Newshub.

"Auckland is just... we're bloody over it," another said.

Hundreds of people have flown into the resort town over the last two days boosting both businesses and the local buskers - and everyone is desperate for a break.

"We're doing the Milford track, so that should be good," one person told Newshub.

"We've been cooped up in Auckland for quite a long time," another added.

And heaps of travellers are headed an hour over the hill from Queenstown to Cardrona for Rhythm & Alps.

"Seventy percent are from Otago, Christchurch and Southland, 10 percent are from Auckland," said the festival's director, Alex Turnbull.

Omicron stole some of the show. UK artist Dimension tested positive for the COVID variant after he'd already been in the community and subsequently sent several other acts into isolation.

"I've been saying for a few days now to expect the unexpected," Turnbull said.

Fat Freddy's Drop got a last-minute call-up, which Newshub understands has been an expensive exercise.

"It's a private commercial arrangement we are both happy with," Turnbull said.

A tweaked line-up and some serious COVID-19 protocols mean the show can still go on. 

Festival organisers say their system is foolproof - contact tracing is built into the same wristband used to buy your drinks.

"We feel safe and that the mask-wearing isn't too intense," one festivalgoer said.

There are big hopes for what 2022 will bring.

"Less COVID, definitely less COVID," one person at Rhythm & Alps told Newshub.

"Just to be happy, I suppose that's it," another added.

That's not too much to ask, and it's worth aiming for even if there is COVID.