Cherry tree festival ticket holders and creditors waiting for news of refund

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The Waikato Cherry Tree Festival was canned after failing to get resource consent before deadline.

MARK TAYLOR/STUFF

The Waikato Cherry Tree Festival was canned after failing to get resource consent before deadline.

The company behind the cancelled Waikato Cherry Tree Festival has been passed over to a liquidator.

Ticket holders were left fuming when the festival was cancelled at the last minute on Thursday, the night before the event was to begin on Friday.

Thousands of unhappy ticket holders, performers and vendors are now facing their money being stuck in limbo until the liquidator decides how much could be paid back.

The event was originally intended to host up to 12,000 paying ticket holders, but NZ PURE TOUR Limited did not get its application for resource consent in to Waikato District Council by deadline.

But it said the festival was still on and continued to sell tickets before finally going into liquidation last Friday.

No entry to the Waikato Cherry Tree Festival or the property after its cancellation.

Wendy van den Berg/SUPPLIED

No entry to the Waikato Cherry Tree Festival or the property after its cancellation.

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The current liquidator of NZ PURE TOUR is Imran Mohammed Kamal from Liquidation Management Limited, based in Wellington.

He said he had received a list of ticket holders and creditors involved in the festival, and was making contact with them to discuss the situation and process.

Although he couldn’t give the exact numbers of people with money tied up in the liquidated company, he said he would be able to send them an official document in five business days that would inform them of what money, if any, they would get back.

NZ PURE TOUR is owned by Tamahere couple Paul Oulton and Anne Cao.

On Friday afternoon Cao told Stuff that the liquidation had to happen.

“Because we cannot run the festival. We’re broke,” she said.

Paul Oulton and Anne Cao sent their company NZ PURE TOUR into voluntary liquidation a few hours after cancelling the festival.

TOM LEE/STUFF

Paul Oulton and Anne Cao sent their company NZ PURE TOUR into voluntary liquidation a few hours after cancelling the festival.

In response to angry customers on the company’s Facebook page, the couple went on the defensive.

“We feel the pain, we believe we did all we could, and if we can recover and if we can get consent, we will honour all that lost out in a future event,” they wrote.

Waikato District Council received complaints during the previous festival in September 2018, which was put on without a consent application, and led to an investigation.

It was identified that the festival was the cause of traffic issues around the site near Tamahere, outside of Hamilton.

It was also established that there were in excess of 1,000 people who attended, which breached council rules for a non-consented event.

A formal warning was then sent to NZ PURE TOUR on October 24, 2018.

Council said staff met with the company in January 2019 to start early discussions about this year’s event.

The festival attracted a crowd last year, so large that it broke council rules and yielded complaints due to traffic issues.

DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF

The festival attracted a crowd last year, so large that it broke council rules and yielded complaints due to traffic issues.

But NZ PURE TOUR’s consent application wasn’t submitted to council until July 29.

With the range of changes that were required, including some as recently as September 11 and 13, that was not soon enough to meet the consent deadline.

Oulton and Cao were planning to run the festival without a consent, which was permitted by council, on the grounds that the event adhered to strict regulations and was of a drastically reduced size.

In the end, they decided to raise the white flag and send NZ PURE TOUR into voluntary liquidation.

The festival was originally scheduled to start on September 20, and run to September 29.

On September 21, Stuff visited the site of the cancelled event, and although road cones were still present, there was limited traffic.

All marquees, gazebos and other infrastructure for the festival appeared to have been deconstructed.

Entrances to the property were blocked, with handwritten signs indicating that the festival was cancelled. 

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