The company behind a Hawke’s Bay music festival has collapsed, leaving dozens of musicians and crew thousands of dollars out of pocket.

The two-day Nest Fest in Hastings in early January featured big names from the New Zealand music scene, including The Exponents, Katchafire, Ladi6 and other artists from around the country and Australia.

Ladi6 manager Ali Tōmoana said performers, the crew and the audience — which included many of her own whānau — had a wonderful time.

The first jarring note came after the festival when she followed up on her invoice and got a call from festival organiser Harry Pettit.

“He told me quite directly that they wouldn’t be able to pay our invoice immediately and he would be sourcing investors as partners to cover artists’ invoices.”

Tickets to the two-day festival cost $209, but Pettit told her they had not made enough money from sales and drinks.

Then followed three weeks of radio silence — until Friday.

“He sent an email, officially communicating that his business Nest Fest had gone into receivership and would be passed over to administrators.

“He will be leaving the music industry, he’s not too sure what that means for anyone else but he’s really sorry and basically all the best.”

Tōmoana expects her company stood to lose thousands of dollars — but this was more than a financial blow.

“What has made it more of a sting for me and us personally is I’m tangata whenua of Ngāti Kahungunu and the festival itself was held at Tōmoana Showgrounds, which is part of our marae and family land.

“It’s been pretty awful to have that experience — you bring a festival to Kahungunu with really good intentions and respect and manaaki and have this happen.”

Many of her crew of nine, who travelled from Auckland for the festival, had families and were relying on that money.

“So we’ll just go through the process and hope for the best. But now we know we can’t count on that money, we’ll just go ahead and take care of our crew and try to work our way out of it.”

One young performer, who wished to be anonymous, said when their manager was not having any luck getting money out of the festival, they decided to make direct contact with Pettit.

“I was thinking about messaging him but when I went about it, he had deleted all of his social media and all the Nest socials got changed to something really weird.”

They were counting on the cash for their imminent move overseas — but instead have ended up hundreds of dollars out of pocket for accommodation and other expenses.

“They only agreed to feed us on the day we were playing because it was a two-day festival. So on one day I ended up paying about $150 for food and drink, which at a festival where you’re meant to be paid to perform, you shouldn’t have to do.”

This year was the sixth Nest Festival, after the 2023 event had to be cancelled due to Cyclone Gabrielle. More than 50 artists performed.

Pettit — who previously represented Six60 and other Dunedin bands — has not responded to RNZ’s requests for comment.

However in an email to one creditor, he apologised for taking so long to get in touch, blaming “legal complications” that put him into a “frozen state of communication” where he was not allowed to respond to anyone.

Due to the cancellation from 2023 and the loss from this year’s event, BirdsNest Entertainment had been forced into receivership, he wrote.

“Unfortunately, there isn’t much money in the business so this won’t be sufficient to cover outstanding costs.”

For an industry still recovering from the pandemic years and the fallout from last summer’s extreme weather, it’s another blow.

By Ruth Hill of rnz.co.nz.

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