POLICE will have a strong presence at the Rainbow Serpent festival this week as they prepare to crack down on drug use.
Ballarat Inspector Bruce Thomas said he had a number of concerns about high drug use at the four-day festival.
“There are 16,000 people on site in a rural setting, it is a very dry setting with a fire risk,” Inspector Thomas said.
“(I am also concerned) about the amount of drug use at the festival.”
Inspector Thomas said police conducted drug testing at last year’s festival. There was a high rate of drug use.
“We found one in 3.8 (of the people tested) tested positive,” Inspector Thomas said.
Inspector Thomas said the festival was unique compared to festivals like Stereosonic that lasted one day and therefore provided a unique challenge to policing.
Festival director Tim Harvey said drug use continued to be a reality for all of society with Rainbow Serpent organisers working hard to change the culture and eliminate drug taking at the event. Organisers have been working strongly with police to ensure festival goers are aware of a heavy police presence and avoid taking risks at the event.
A strong message on its website “you will dance, you will rest, you will place and you will be tested for drug and alcohol” is one of the ways organisers are trying to educate festival goers.
“With the population of a medium sized regional town, our festival faces the same challenges any other comparable population deals with,” Mr Harvey said.
“We strongly discourage the taking of drugs and everyone at Rainbow Serpent Festival works incredibly hard each year to introduce new strategies and programs to promote safety and well-being and encourage good decision making.”
This year there will be free breath testing and voluntary drug testing for festival-goers at departure gates. This is aimed at ensuring intoxicated and drug affected drivers stay off the roads.
The festival is in partnership with organisations like DanceWize to promote harm reduction initiatives. Emergency workers and medical professionals will also be on duty throughout the festival.
Inspector Thomas urged all patrons to look after their friends and contact police if they were concerned about drug use.