Rabbits Eat Lettuce Doofville at Kippenduff.
Rabbits Eat Lettuce Doofville at Kippenduff.

Police block 'unsafe' music festival

AN ELEVENTH hour police decision to withdraw support for a three day dance music festival near Casino is being contested in the Land and Environment Court.

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

On Friday police announced they had withdrawn support for the event after declaring it "unsafe" for both festival goers, emergency services and the local community.

Under a provision of the event's development consent with Richmond Valley Council, NSW Police has the power to withdraw support for the festival.

Police have concerns about the Bohemian Beatfreaks festival, due to be held near Casino from November 23.
Police have concerns about the Bohemian Beatfreaks festival, due to be held near Casino from November 23.

Richmond Police District acting Superintendent Toby Lindsay said police had a "considerable list" of safety concerns.

"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," he said.

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.

 

Rabbits Eat Lettuce party organisers hold events at Kippenduff Farm near Rappville.
Rabbits Eat Lettuce party organisers hold events at Kippenduff Farm near Rappville. Daniel Tran

The risks identified by police 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.

But the last minute police decision is being challenged by Rabbits Eat Lettuce in the Land and Environment Court today.

Event director Erik Lamir-Pike said he was confident the event would be run safely and that the event history had proven this.

In September 2015 Rabbits Eat Lettuce Pty Ltd obtained a five-year development consent from Richmond Valley Council to host two multi-day, music, art and camping festivals annually, just under 50kms south west of Casino on a private Kippenduff property.

 

Erik Lamir from Rabbits Eats Lettuce music events
Erik Lamir from Rabbits Eats Lettuce music events Susanna Freymark

Mr Lamar-Pike said since consent was granted the group had successfully staged five events on the property with no serious incidents; including both the Rabbits Eat Lettuce signature event at Easter, and the November event, Bohemian Beatfreaks.

The events were supported by police, NSW Ambulance, the Rural Fire Service and Richmond Valley Council.

"We have a dedicated emergency manager on site who was in the Victorian police force for many years and our medical facility can accommodate pretty much anything," Mr Lamir-Pike said.

He said NSW Police had attended all previous events held at the site and had positive feedback.

 

Rabbits Eat Lettuce party organisers.
Rabbits Eat Lettuce party organisers. Daniel Tran

"In fact, a comment was made by a police officer in attendance at one of our events, held in April last year, that 'it was one of the best days of my career'."

"They also said they 'had nothing to do all day' and would 'definitely be coming back next year'."

Mr Lamir-Pike said at the festival's pre-event meeting with police late last month they were advised the decision was partially on the basis of a comparison with the festival and the notorious Defqon.1, the Sydney based techno festival where two people died and more than 700 sought medical attention earlier this year.

"Our festival is a three-day camping festival, it's one tenth of the size and very different to the DefQon.1 event in Sydney," he said.

 

Rabbits Eat Lettuce party organisers.
Rabbits Eat Lettuce party organisers. Daniel Tran

M Lamir-Pike said the police decision could bankrupt the upcoming Bohemian Beatfreaks Festival due to an estimated $100,000 in legal costs.

Rabbits Eat Lettuce have started a Go Fund Me page to raise funds to pay for the legal proceedings.

But Acting Supt Lindsay said police had identified safety issues which were "totally inadequate for a festival site and we simply can't support it going ahead in its current form".

"As police, it's our job to protect people as expected by our local communities," he said.