Court to decide fate of Northern Rivers music festival, NSW

Police from the Richmond Police District have withdrawn support for a local three-day music festival due to overwhelming safety concerns, NSW Police say.

The “Bohemian Beatfreaks” festival, operated by Rabbits Eat Lettuce Pty Ltd, is due to take place from Friday 23 November 2018 on a remote private property, about 55 kilometres south-west of Casino.

Police have inspected the site and consider it unsafe for the festival, emergency services and the local community.

“We have a considerable list of safety concerns,” Acting Superintendent, Toby Lindsay said, “We have advised festival organisers to rectify those issues but we have not been satisfied that the risk to public safety has been appropriately addressed.

Police have deemed the festival to be “extreme” in risk to its thousands of patrons, who are expected to camp out in the open on the property, and the event is likely to have a heavy impact on local police and emergency service resources to provide service delivery to the event and local community.

The identified risks include:

  • Severely restricted vehicular access to the site in case of emergency
  • Poor communications at site in an area renowned as a telecommunications blackspot
  • The long distance to available emergency services and facilities
  • No perimeter fencing at location, surrounded by dense bushfire-prone scrubland
  • Potential for prohibited drug harm and excessive alcohol consumption – large-scale drug use detected at previous festivals on the site
  • Dangers associated with drug and alcohol-affected drivers leaving the festival
  • The presence of an unfenced dam within the venue
  • Possibility of overcrowding
  • Health and Safety risks
  • Limitations of local emergency services to respond to a crisis at the site

Acting Superintendent Lindsay, who is also the Local Emergency Operations Controller (LEOCON), said in anticipation of drugs and alcohol present, there were additional risks of assaults, accidental physical harm and possible misadventure at the event, aimed at 17 to 25-year-olds.

“As police, it’s our job to protect people as expected by our local communities,” he said.

“We have identified safety issues that are totally inadequate for a festival site and we simply can’t support it going ahead in its current form.

NSW Police have a provision under the Richmond Valley Council development consent to withdraw support for the festival when we consider it unsafe,” Act. Supt Lindsay added.

Festival organisers are opposing the police action before the NSW Land and Environment Court.

The NSW Police Force respects the court’s deliberations on this matter.

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