The Waiheke Olive Festival was started, nurtured and expanded by the olive growers of Waiheke who belonged to WOG (Waiheke Olive Group). It started small but expanded over the next twelve years to be attended by nearly 1000 people a day.
The object was to promote the extra virgin olive oil produced by local growers, large and small, by having tastings at an olive festival. The venue for the festival was Rangihoua Estate who were paid to hold the festival as well as being an exhibitor. Laid back jazz was provided on the lawn outside where visitors also enjoyed food and drink. Rangihoua also had the right to have a stall selling beer without a vendor fee, whereas other food and drink suppliers were charged.
In December 2010 the WOG was wound up but with the intention of keeping the festival going.
Within days of the wind up, however, Colin Sayles (the owner of Rangihoua Estate) registered the name “Waiheke Olive Festival” in his own name, without discussion or consent of the olive growers and without any acknowledgement of intellectual property ownership. He took over the festival and excluded all of the smaller growers in favour of most of the larger growers with the exception of Azzurro Groves. Four growers only are represented Number 29, Kennedy Point, Matiatia Grove and Rangihoua. The format was changed to put emphasis on popular music and wine and beer sales. The entry fee went from $5 to $15, since when numbers have severely declined.
Legal action was considered by some growers but did not eventuate. As one of the organisers of the festival, myself and others have been very careful over the years to protect the integrity of the Waiheke Olive Festival brand and keep the emphasis on promoting our high quality olive oil, while still providing a happy laid back Waiheke style atmosphere for locals and visitors, many from oversea, to enjoy.
This is how the Waiheke community was deprived of a longstanding iconic event format that had taken many years to establish.
A new olive growers group “Olives Waiheke” has been formed with a constitution so as to safeguard its intellectual property and integrity. There was, unfortunately, no formal constitution for the WOG. Many members of this new group were members of the old group. I am committed to taking back our Olive Festival and reinstating it as it was. I am in the process of searching for a suitable venue and will continue from there. So far everyone I have spoken to thinks this is a good idea. They miss the $5 entry Olive Festival of old.
The Rangihoua festival is something different. It is a food, wine, beer and music festival. They should market it as such.
by Briar Ross