Following record drug arrests at the recent Field Day festival in Sydney, as well as several well-publicised police operations that yielded high numbers of arrests at other festivals around Australia, police recently shut down a launch party for the Rabbits Eat Lettuce festival over “concerns of illicit drug use”, except no drugs whatsoever were found.
The organisers of the popular electronic music festival, which has been held at a private estate near Byron Bay over the Easter long weekend for the past six years, were hosting a launch event on Saturday at Ebor, just over 100 kilometres west of Coffs Harbour. Up to 150 revellers were in attendance at what police described as an “illegal rave party”.
According to a NSW Police media release, police from Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command and New England Local Area Command, as well as NSW Forestry Rangers attended a property at Hyatts Flat, which adjoins Forestry Commission land on the Styx River, where they also allegedly identified several camping sites and amenities from the party on Forestry Commission land.
Police allege that when they attempted to speak with the organisers of the party, they were denied entry and shown a handwritten note allegedly from the land owner granting permission to hold the event. When police and forestry rangers began to clear the forestry land, the organisers reportedly moved those revellers onto the adjacent private property.
The organisers allegedly told party-goers that police could not stop them from holding the event. However, the land owner soon revoked organisers’ permission after speaking with police, who informed the owners that the purpose of hiring the property was to host a large-scale commercial activity.
At about 5.30pm, police demanded organisers and patrons shut down the party. When they did not comply, police cut open locked gates to gain entry and shut down the event without further incident. Senior police also authorised the use of a road block to turn around a large number of people attempting to attend the event.
Police issued a Criminal Infringement Notice for trespass to a 42-year-old man from Coffs Harbour, while officers from Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command are also reportedly investigating possible breaches of the Licensing legislation in conjunction with investigations by local councils, though no drug arrests were made.
“With the number of recent tragic deaths and overdoses resulting from illicit drug use at these types of events, I cannot stress enough that prohibited drugs are not only illegal, but are highly dangerous and potentially life-threatening,” said Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Darren Jameson.
“We are very happy to provide support to organisers who want to hold events in the area, but only if they seek appropriate approvals and do not put the community at risk,” Det Insp Jameson added. “Any organisers of these types of events who are determined to flaunt the law will face the full-force of it from my officers.”
While the incidents to which Det Insp Jameson refers are presumably the death of 19-year-old Georgina Bartter, who died after allegedly ingesting a pill during last year’s Harbourlife festival in Sydney, as well as numerous arrests seen at other electronic music festivals, police did not charge anyone with drug possession during Saturday’s operation on the private party.
“The police did not find any drugs at the event and made zero arrests despite searching people’s camp sites with sniffer dogs,” organisers told APN News & Media via The Morning Bulletin. “So hardly a ‘drug-fuelled’ event. Our events are focused around music and art,” they said.