Music Festival Cancelled After Organisers 'Blindsided' By $200,000 NSW Cop Bill
A boutique Central Coast music festival has been forced to cancel one week out from the event, citing an unexpected $200,000 bill imposed on it by the New South Wales government.
Mountain Sounds Festival has been running since 2014, and this year was due to host Angus and Julia Stone, What So Not and Courtney Barnett, along with a number of other Australian and international artists.
Organisers have now made the decision to cancel the event, after being informed days away they would have to pay for 45 police officers on a 24-hour cycle throughout the event. They say this is four times the number they were quoted just weeks ago.
"We are devastated to announce the cancellation of Mountain Sounds 2019. The event will not be going ahead at Mount Penang Parklands next week," organisers said in a statement.
"Unfortunately, we too have been put in an impossible situation as it was unrealistic for us to pull this money together, particularly given the time frame."
The requirement for a significantly beefed-up police presence comes despite a festival history of no serious drug-related incidences, according to organisers.
At last years event, just 49 of the more than 16,000 attendees were caught with illegal substances.
"A mere seven days out from the event, further conditions and financial obligations were imposed on the festival, which were impossible to meet," organisers said, adding that they were "blindsided".
Organisers say their event submission was consistent with last year’s operation.
"The combination of excessive costs, additional licensing conditions and the enforcement of a stricter timeline left us no option but to cancel the event."
Festival organisers said Mountain Sounds' cancellation was yet another casualty in "the Liberal party's war on festivals", and urged music fans to remember it in the upcoming state election.
It's common for events to shoulder costs for a police presence, but the specific number is issued by the Department of Liquor and Gaming, on advice from the NSW Police. Both departments have been contacted for comment.
In the past few months, music festivals have come under increasing pressure from government and police authorities after a spate of fatal overdoses .
Psyfari festival announced just this week it would not be going ahead in 2019, citing the government's "war on festivals".
"We are unfortunate to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when festivals are the new scapegoat of a failed government and their failed war on drugs," it wrote on Facebook.
The government rejects that it is "anti-festivals", with a spokesperson telling the Sydney Morning Herald this week that new regulations were there to "give families peace of mind".
Five young people have died from suspected drug overdoses at NSW music festivals in the past five months, bringing the debate around pill testing into the forefront.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian vowed to crack down on music festivals following the deaths of two people at Defqon.1 in September last year, introducing measures a month later which included "a new, specific and consistent licensing regime to improve".
Rabbits Eat Lettuce has moved to Queensland due to ongoing costs with the NSW government. Photo: Facebook.
The Rabbits Eat Lettuce festival announced also this week that it'll be moving to Queensland, citing rising costs over two legal battles brought on by the state government.
“REL is in a fragile financial position after forking out $100,000 to fight last year’s action by NSW Police and we don’t currently have the time or finances for another court battle," it said in a statement.
All ticket-holders to Mountain Sounds Festival will be informed of refunds in the coming days.
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