Fri, Jan 20, 2023 1:19 PM

Raifest bringing community together to save lives


Sara Hollyman

Sonny Aitken knows just how vital the rescue chopper is to saving lives – it saved his own, and now he is rallying a rural community together with music to raise funds for the service.

In 2019, Sonny was working down south driving a 12 tonne loader when the brakes failed, sending him down the main road with no way to stop.

He says the loader was doing more than 100kmh when it hit the bank at the bottom, leaving him with severe injuries, including a head trauma which has changed his life forever.

“I thought I was dead, but I woke up in the chopper at Dunedin Hospital.”

He says the accident left him with short-term memory loss for around six months and he was having difficulties in Nelson so he moved to Okiwi Bay, a place he’s had an affinity with since he was young, to get a break.

Suffering with depression, poor mental health and pain from the injuries he says Ian and Pam Montgomery, who own the Okiwi Bay Holiday Park, were a lifeline.

“I’ve known Monty since I was a little kid, so when I moved down he would come and pick me up and we’d go round the camp for an hour at a time.”
Sonny then got a rescue dog, Prince, who he credits to improving his mental health. Then, he found music.

“On my 39th birthday I got Prince, on my 40th I first played music.”

Now Sonny, aka Noose-NZ, and his music mentor Chopz, have teamed up with 12 other artists to bring the 12-hour drum and bass Raifest to the Millers Rest in Rai Valley on Saturday.

He says while it is a drum and bass festival, all 14 artists have a different style.
Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter Trust manager Paula Muddle says its a great inititaive to support both them and bring the community together.

“They do the hard mana and we reap the rewards, which is fantastic. And they’re supporting the Rai Valley community who support us whole-heartedly.”

The group are aiming to raise $5000 and they hope to make the festival a regular feature on the Rai Valley events calendar.

“The rescue chopper is so under-funded, which seems a bit silly to be honest,” Sonny says.

Entry to Raifest is free for the all ages event. Children need to be with a parent and it is R18 after 10pm.

The carparks at the Millers Rest can be booked for self-contained camping vehicles for $25, with each booking having a chance to win a $100 bar tab.

Free camping is also available, check out the Raifest Facebook page for details.

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