Loving music and the planet at Sundaise


Arriving at the Sundaise music festival last weekend, my first thought was, damn, I missed the dreadlocks memo.

My beard was too tidy and my clothes were too mainstream. Even the children looked more hippy than me.

There were lots of children. It was a family-friendly weekend with kids running around late into the night or sleeping on couches next to the main stage.

Sundaise is a locally produced labour of love, a hidden gem of a music festival tucked away on private farmland near the Karangahake Gorge.

The festival describes itself as “a place where music, arts, family and nature all converge for a glorious three day event.” That is exactly what it was. We camped in paddocks of flattened thistles alongside the Waitawheta River. We used composting toilets that were fleetingly shielded by curtains that danced like hippies in the wind – an awkward way to meet new people but it didn’t seem to matter. This was Sundaise: fantasyland of creativity, art installations, breath circles, workshops on edible weeds.

Wandering through all the hippy-ness, I found myself asking three questions. One: where do I fit in this cultural landscape? I wore no visual markers to align myself with anything other than the tribe of the modern middle class.

I suppose I could have thrown on some colourful pants but I saw no reason to be something I’m not. Besides, the only person judging me was me so I decided to accept my singlet-wearing self as a valid part of the festival community.


Second question: where do I fit in the creative landscape? I was there as a poet and musician but the talent all around me was intimidating. Trinity Roots headlined the festival. Sidewalk Empire, a relatively new Tauranga band, arrived fully formed on the main stage. Swamp Thing blew everyone’s jandals off with their powerhouse blues. There were no dud acts.

In the shadow of all that excellence I read my little poems and plucked my little ukulele and people seemed to like it. It is every artist’s challenge to accept that your greatest strength lies in simply doing whatever it is that you do best. The interesting hors d’oeuvre is just as important to the overall menu as the main event.

The third question I asked myself was: where do I fit in the environmental landscape?

We need to explore new ways of living that are kinder for the planet. Alternative thinking should not be solely the domain of the hippy fringe. We need people working in the mainstream to influence essential changes inside the system.

If I scratched the surface of my inner hippy in any way at all last weekend, it was to further embrace sustainability, one of the central values of Sundaise.

Sundaise excels in the art of hosting a sustainable event. Much of the festival is solar powered. The food markets pay special attention to packaging that can be recycled or composted instead of trashed. As much waste as possible is diverted from landfill.


I have never particularly liked the word sustainability. For a few years it seemed in danger of becoming a meaningless buzzword.

I hope it is reclaiming its value. We should take sustainability seriously because something wholesale and dramatic needs to be done about climate change.

Swallow this for a national statistic. If New Zealanders collectively stopped sending our food scraps to landfill, the equivalent reduction on greenhouse gas emissions would be like taking more than 118,000 cars off the road for a year.

That would be a good start. Saving the world is everyone’s job. If a festival can inspire us with great music along the way, so much the better. Peace out, dude.

First published in Bay of Plenty Times 13 March 2015. Reproduced with permission.