THE future of this year’s Rainbow Serpent Festival hangs in the balance after the Pyrenees Shire Council last night agreed to fast-track a new permit application by the event organising committee.
Traders and community groups said the region would be hit hard if the festival, which is expected to bring in about 14,000 people, doesn’t go ahead on the Australia Day long weekend. More than 8000 tickets have already been sold.
The music, arts and lifestyle event was in turmoil yesterday when council announced it would not grant the permit on advise from the Country Fire Authority, Victoria Police and Ambulance Victoria.
Mayor Michael O’Connor said the authorities objected to the new emergency and medical services provider nominated by the organising committee, however the festival yesterday made a late change back to their original provider, Flash Point.
Ambulance Victoria manager of Air Ambulance and emergency management, Paul Holman said the venue’s remote location made ambulance access difficult.
“The seriousness of these issues were magnified when one person sadly lost their life at the festival last year and many more required emergency ambulance care,” he said.
The organising committee will submit a new permit application this morning, which will be reviewed by the authorities.
President of traders group Business for Beaufort, Marianne Troup said shop owners would lose out if the festival didn’t go ahead, many of which have already pre-ordered stock in anticipation of big crowds.
“I just think it would be frustrating and a big disappointment because every year we’ve had this festival there’s been a great group of people, they come into town, spend their money and are well behaved,” she said.
“All of a sudden we think ‘oh it’s not going to happen’, so of course it’s going to be a big loss to businesses and community groups.”
The Lexton Football and Netball Club would also miss out, with stalls at the festival providing about 20 per cent of their annual fundraising income.
“Not having that income will definitely hurt the club and the rest of the community because we all benefit and rely on that cash flow,” club president Rachel Phelan said.
So far more than 7000 people have signed an online petition to save the festival, with many venting their frustration through online comments.
Festival director Tim Harvey said the organising committee was “cautiously optimistic” the permit application would be approved.
“It’s a huge improvement, we’ve gone from council saying that’s their decision to saying they will fast track a decision as long as the authorities approve it,” he said.
“We’re very appreciative that council have given us this opportunity and we will certainly be working exceptionally hard not to disappoint them and to prove their faith in us was well placed.”
Cr O’Connor said council wanted to see the festival go ahead but in a way that provided adequate safety for the community.
He said the organising committee’s slack administration had added to the initial permit refusal.
“For most events permits would have been organised earlier than this, but (the organising committee) does have a history of being tardy,” he said.
“Their administration work leaves a lot to be desired and it’s caught up with them this year.”