Police crackdown amid ‘high risk’ festivals
POLICE have swarmed a New South Wales music festival as controversy around the "high risk" list of events heats up.
The four NSW festivals where revellers died from suspected drug overdoses in the past six months are among those deemed dangerous in the list of 14.
But one that is not included still had a high police presence across its two-day schedule.
Police charged two women and one man with drug supply during their two-day operation at the Secret Garden Music Festival in Sydney.
Officers searched more than 100 cars and hundreds of people among the crowd of 4000 on Friday, uncovering 40 drug detections for MDMA, cocaine and cannabis.
There were 25 detections on Saturday for MDMA, LSD and cannabis, with a 22-year-old Darlington man arrested about 3.30pm.
He allegedly had 32 LSD tabs, with three tablets believed to contain dexamphetamine, and a capsule believed to contain MDMA.
Day three of the police operation continues today with police targeting drink and drug driving in the area.
It comes after the NSW government released its list of 14 high risk festivals which will have to adhere to a new licensing scheme from March 1.
No other festival will be affected by the changes.
Five revellers died at FOMO festival in Parramatta, Defqon.1 in Penrith, the Knockout Games of Destiny at Sydney Olympic Park and the Lost Paradise festival on the central coast between September and January this year. All four of those festivals are on the high risk list.
"I want to see our live music industry flourish, I want to see more festivals in the future," Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters at Blacktown on Saturday.
"But I also want to make sure that when people attend these festivals the risk of brain injury, lifelong injury, or death is low."
The government said high risk festivals had serious drug related illness or death occur in the past three years or the Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority determined there may be a significant risk of such illness or death at those festivals.
Some needed more medical resources, while others needed more security, Ms Berejiklian said.
The list will be regularly reviewed and festivals which improve their safety may be removed from the list while others may be added, government said in a statement.
It follows an announcement by NSW Racing Minister Paul Toole earlier in the week that music festivals determined to be low risk would obtain a free licence under the coalition's new licensing regime.
The NSW government has copped criticism over the changes with the Australian Festival Association claiming it's "a fact" that well-run festivals with excellent safety records are already being negatively affected.
It said "high risk" festival organisers received a late night text on Friday advising them of their status, without consultation.
"Our offer to sit down and work through sensible steps to improve safety has fallen on deaf ears," the peak body said in a statement on Saturday.
"These festivals haven't seen the guidelines under which they have been assessed, nor given a right of reply."
Ms Berejiklian said the government was currently consulting with the high risk festival organisers and was keen to work with them.
"All we're saying to the high risk festivals is just please meet us halfway," she said.
"We want to see them continue but we also want them to be safe."
But the Australian Festival Association criticised the announcement, saying the government had adopted "a chaotic policy-on-the-run" approach and their consultation process had been "a farce".
"There remains confusion that these festivals shouldn't even be in the high-risk category," the association said in a statement.
"A stand-out example is Laneway Festival which does not meet the government's high-risk criteria.
"It's also not clear how new festivals will be assessed, what discretionary powers will be available and what risk assessment criteria will be applied."
The Australian Festival Association has also slammed the government's licensing requirements calling it out on its "badly designed" scheme and its failure to "provide clarity and certainty around its risk categories."
"We urge the Government to come to the table with a commitment to genuine and extensive consultation that includes a commitment to defer the 1 March start date for the new licensing requirements so we can understand the economic, cultural and operational impacts of the new regulations," the association says in the statement.
"Otherwise, sadly, it looks like NSW will be Australia's first music festival-free zone."
NSW Police's list include:
- Days Like This - Victoria Park, Camperdown -March 2019
- Transmission - Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park - March 2019
- Up Down - Newcastle Foreshore, Newcastle - March 2019
- Defqon.1 - Sydney International Regatta Centre, Castlereagh - September 2019
- Subsonic - Riverwood Downs, Monkerai - November 2019
- This That - Wickham Park, Newcastle - November 2019
- Knockout Games of Destiny - Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park - December 2019
- Lost Paradise - Glenworth Valley - December 2019
- FOMO - Parramatta Park, Parramatta - January 2020
- Electric Gardens - Centennial Park - January 2020
- HTID - Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park - January 2020
- Rolling Loud - Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park - January 2020
- Laneway - Callan Park, Rozelle - February 2020
- Ultra - Parramatta Park, Parramatta - February 2020