Destination: Kiwiburn, Whakamaru Domain, North Island, NZ, Feb 6 – 12, 2007


Post Mortem: We are in Taupo now, several days after the Kiwiburn event, catching up on much needed sleep, talking about and revisiting our experiences at Kiwiburn, having our own little decompression. We were five yesterday: HiDive, Ingrid, Brady, Bruce & myself, hanging out in Taupo, soaking in the spa, sharing a pizza and a beer, progressing on the friendship spectrum, relishing the shared experience we just had together. Today we are just two, me & Bruce, and we’re supposed to be focusing on setting up appointments to view properties next week in Taranaki and we can’t quite muster up the energy to focus on that task as our conversations always circle back to Kiwiburn and what just happened, and how it’s going to impact our lives.

We just walked past the Waiariki Institute of Technology whose slogan is “Life, Feel It”. How apropos. We just rode a very big wave, the three day Kiwiburn festival where emotions and feelings were peaking, good vibes at their zenith. We were living life hard, feeling it, it was real and raw and pure. Someone started a thread on Tribe asking what it was like and within hours bursts from the community came flooding through, talking about all that was good. The community is friending each other fast and furiously, we all want to stay connected, to remember, to carry forth all that good energy.

Just what went on at Kiwiburn? That’s what I’m trying to figure out. What happened, why was it so good, can it be replicated, grown, expanded, and made better? These are questions many are asking and obviously can’t know the answers to until we get there.


On a very physical level, Kiwiburn was a big ol’ party held on a couple of rolling hilled thistle filled paddocks in Whakamaru/Mangakino township just north of Taupo. It was a beautiful location with wise old trees and a big lake and lots of sheep and cows parked in the next paddock who watched curiously as we walked or danced by. The official numbers aren’t out yet, but I’d guess we were maybe 120 strong; 50% Kiwis, 50% foreign travelers; more than half were Burners; ages spanned single digits to sixties. The weather gods gave us a good run, I think to test our resolve, with a couple of scorching hot days and evenings, a good two hour torrential downpour on the eve of the opening of the event in which most people were arriving, and a couple of chilly days and colder nights requiring some of us to bust our finest huggable fur coats.


There was a man, a temple, a labyrinth, a sky tower, a kiwi, a center camp with a huge sound system, a greeter station, a bar, a dance camp, a chill space, some fire spinners, body painters, a thunderdome teepee and some art. Just random things that random people brought.


But wait, these weren’t things done by random people, these were things created by my new friends. That was Myle’s man, a giant flaming, dancing structure; Polly and Wendy’s designed temple in which just about everyone at Kiwiburn helped to build, then repair when the winds took at it, then tear down and carried over to the man to burn; Pearl’s labyrinth, which was lit on fire and everyone walked through in a state of happiness and joy; the JAFAB’s sky tower, built over the course of many days and assisted by the paid medical staff who helped out whenever they could cuz they were digging our vibe; Sebastian’s kiwi – Sebastian, who said ‘hey Kiwiburn can’t be Kiwiburn unless there’s a kiwi to burn’, and to which Bruce replied, ‘so make one’, and he did over the course of several days with the help of Cory and Jane and many others; everyone’s center camp in which newly ‘outed’ dj’s took to the stage and helped us get our dance groove on; Jess and Alan’s greeter station, where every person arriving at the event was welcomed with a smile and shiny sparkles or a paddle or two; The Green Fairy bar run by me, Bruce, and Cass, which lit up every night and which brought green-goodness to all; Pink Moa dance camp run by gregarious Jonathan and sweet Sam and which almost got taken out by the downpour; Roy and Alfred’s chill space where one could drop by and cozy up on the pillows and take in an artsy movie; the very groovy Auckland fire spinners, many of whom I met briefly but can’t quite remember their names except for Fireman Sam – they busted out every night and dazzled us all; Evs and Richard and ?, who set up a body painting tent and created some beautiful temporary human art; Josie and Carl and Sam’s bamboo Thunderdome complete with bright lights and heavy metal sounds backdropping to the cacophony of laughter as we watched friends battle it out with big duck-taped covered foam bats; and Shelley and Abbey’s cookie tree.

PollysTeaParty CookieTree

And then there was Jess and Alan’s Smokes N Jokes hookah tent, Polly’s tea party, Cass’s gymkhana where entrants competed on a make-believe pony named Dobbin – I swear I never laughed so hard; there were the didgeridoo bamboo makers, HiDive’s art car, Marie the avocado lady & filmographer; Medic the rapper; Brady the poet; Mark’s windmill, Trish’s dinosaur; Mel’s mad teddy bears; Trailer Trashes’ giant checkers set.

This was the magic. I came to Kiwiburn knowing maybe six or seven people and I knew of maybe a dozen more. By the end of the event I knew almost everyone – I had the opportunity to at least say hello and exchange a hug and a smile over three day’s time and got to know a little bit about a lot of people, many of whom I look forward to developing further friendships. Yes, this was the magic – of the people who had a vision of what a New Zealand burner event could be like and of the people who came not knowing a thing about the culture of burning man and totally dug it and embraced it and want more. So much pride was exhibited among the folks there that this amazing event could happen here in New Zealand (and why not I say, since New Zealand is really a special and magical place).


Even though Kiwiburn embraced the principles of Burning Man it was different for me in many ways. I liked this event much more as I really dug the smallness of it – it was intimate and it felt like community, something that I don’t always feel at Burning Man which is, quite frankly, getting too big for my taste. Anything anyone did at Kiwiburn mattered and everyone got to experience everyone’s thing. That definitely doesn’t happen at Burning Man anymore. It’s not to say that Burning Man isn’t great or wonderful or doesn’t have it’s place, but when someone says to me ‘welcome home’, I want it to feel like home, something real, something tangible, something that is really part of my life. Kiwiburn felt that way for me.

There was other magic too like the weather gods holding out on the night of the burn until we were done burning stuff and then let the skies open up on us and it rained the whole night through. There were the weird dead spiders that kept appearing on our vans’ floorboard morning after morning throughout the event and then mysteriously stopped appearing once we left the site (I’m still trying to figure out its meaning). And there were the locals (the firemen, the farmers, and the district council & Destination Taupo representatives) who came to the event and ‘got it’ and are eager to have us back for more.

So, to all that made it to the event this year, I salute you, as we did something quite amazing and awesome and something that may not be replicated. Not to say that future Kiwiburn events won’t be great, but they aren’t likely to be exactly the same.

As I look through my photos again and again, I smile and laugh and delight in all the wonderful people that made Kiwiburn special:

Myles, Mel, Nathan, Mark, Jane, Andrew, Tobi, Jess, Allan, Alyn, Jodi, Wendy, Joel, Chris, Polly, Jez, Jonathan, Shelley, Abby, Trish, Kiwi, Sam, Hana, Josie, Cora, Poppy, Carl, Skat, the rest of the JAFABs, Sebastian, Cory, Jane, Benjamin, the dreadlocked guy, Fireman Sam and the fire spinners, Grant, Jennifer, Ants, Scott, singer from Trailer Trash, Urs, Will, Pearl, Billy, Simone, Ocean, Hugh, Ingrid, Dave, Jonathan, Sam, Dee & partner, me, Cass, Bruce, Jonathan, Sam, Rich (the coffee guy) and partner, Brady, Eli, Jason, Richie, Long Island Ryan and Paula, Ergoat, the French dude, Medic, Scott/Cookie, Melanie, Roy, Alfred, Evs, Richard, Abiertooo, Tuki, Nigel the farmer, Warwick, Tina, Andy, and the rest of you whose names I have forgotten or haven’t met yet. You rock!

Our kiwiburn photos can be found here.

And our gymkhana video (put together by Bruce) is here.

Other folks’ pictures:





Cass Videos