THE owners of a 26.58 hectare farming property at Strzelecki, which hosted an illegal music festival in February last year, were taken to court last Thursday by the South Gippsland Shire Council because the organiser failed to get a permit.
However, there seems to be some conjecture about the impact of the festival on neighbours and the surrounding area.
Local Laws Enforcement Officer for the South Gippsland Shire Council, Bruce Gardiner, told Korumburra Magistrate Simon Garnett that while the event “wasn’t Woodstock” it would be wrong to characterise it as a “small festival”.
“There were 35 bands on four stages and over 200 people in attendance. It may not have been Woodstock, your Honour, but it wasn’t small,” Mr Gardiner said.
“One of our concerns with staging an event of this kind in February would have been the potential bushfire risk and as part of any planning, the local emergency services would have been notified,” he said.
Mr Gardiner had earlier told the court that the operator of the event, who was not an owner of the land, had not obtained the necessary planning and environment permits to run the event, or an occupancy permit to provide for public entertainment and camping for 200 people over three days, from Friday, February 27 to Sunday, March 1, 2015.
He said the event, called ‘Camp Casual’, had been advertised on the Internet and 209 tickets sold for $125. There were also food vendors on site he said.
“One witness who lived approximately 1.5km away advised us that he and his wife had trouble sleeping over the weekend whilst the event was being held and even had difficulty hearing their television. He had to move his cattle to other parts of his farm,” Mr Gardiner alleged.
The brother and sister owners of the farm, Mary and Sean O’Carroll, admitted in court that the music was loud and that they had relied on the organiser getting the necessary permits but they brought references from neighbours who gave a completely different assessment of the event.
One of them, Dianne Brew, a long-standing resident of Wild Dog Valley Road where the festival was held, even provided the siblings with a glowing tribute to the music event which was read out in court last week.
“It is with the utmost sincerity that I can say that I thought Camp Casual was the best thing to have taken place in our valley.
“To see such vibrant, happy, carefree people enjoying a wide variety of music in a beautiful part of South Gippsland was a real joy,” Ms Brew said.
She said her family members attended the “well-run event” and that she was delighted to be able to get a nice cup of coffee and cake during her visit to the site and claimed the event had spin off benefits for the local economy.
“We allowed our paddock to be used as a car park and have nothing but praise for the conduct of the Camp Casual patrons.
“They were gracious, courteous and respectful of our property and we were able to go about our farming duties regardless of the people at the music festival.”
She said there was no rubbish left behind and the event was still being talked about as an ideal activity for visitors to the area.
The brother and sister owners said they had tried to work cooperatively with the council after a complaint had been made about the event and had been expecting to be interviewed by local laws officer Justin Eades, until he had become the victim of a terrible assault.
“We wrote to the shire saying how sorry we were to hear about the incident, wishing Mr Eades well, but the interviews did not take place and we were shocked when we received a summons to attend court,” Mr O’Carroll said.
He said they had been given an undertaking by the council that depending on the outcome of the interview the matter might be dismissed, dealt with by way of fine or taken to court.
But the mediation had not taken place.
His sister, Mary O’Carroll, said that while 209 tickets had been sold, it was a not-for-profit event and most of those who attended were known to them.
Asked by Magistrate Garnett what penalties might apply for some associated planning breaches, involving the building of a cover for a stage and a walking bridge over a nearby creek, as well as hosting the music event, Mr Gardiner said such offences could attract fines up to $180,000.
But, in the end, the magistrate found the six charges proven, but without conviction he placed the pair on a 12-month good behaviour undertaking and awarded $234 in costs against them.
Illegal music festival: was it mild or wild?