Ballarat’s top cop is calling for major changes at the Rainbow Serpent Music and Arts Festival after a string of illegal activity including drug trafficking, assaults and two reported rapes as well as a fatality.
On Saturday night a 22-year-old Kensington man was unable to be revived by paramedics after going into cardiac arrest.
Police were continuing to conduct drug tests in the wake of the festival and had recorded more than 30 positive tests as of 2pm Tuesday, equating to one drug driver every six tests. One drink driver was also recorded.
Superintendent Andrew Allen said Victoria Police had increased its presence at the festival year-on-year in response to the nature and frequency of crime.
“Why is it that we're expecting to see fatalities at Rainbow Serpent Festival? It's because there is a huge amount of illicit drug taking going on,” Superintendent Allen said.
Police recorded six counts of combined drug trafficking and possession at the Lexton event and also responded to an assault on a police officer.
Four people were evicted from the site over the five days.
Superintendent Allen said police believed organised criminals were infiltrating the festival and “preying on vulnerable young people”.
“The community of Beaufort and the Pyrenees Shire have to evaluate whether this is causing harm to the community,” Superintendent Allen said.
“I know there is financial benefit...but how long can we see this type of behaviour sustained?”
Ecstasy, MDMA, ketamine and cannabis were among the illicit drugs sized by police during the festival.
One Wendouree man leaving the festival crashed into the back of a truck in Nerrina this morning and has since been taken to hospital with serious injuries.
Police and other emergency services will conduct a festival debrief with the event’s organisers as well as representatives from the Pyrenees Shire in the coming months.
Pyrenees Shire mayor Ron Eason said while council was concerned by the poor behaviour reported by Victoria Police he supported the festival’s continuation.
“If we provide a safe festival environment, which I currently believe we do, then I stand by the festival,” Mr Eason said.
Superintendent Allen said Victoria Police did not want to see the festival shut down, but said “there has to be better planning and there has to be better ways of holding these types of events”.
Superintendent Allen declined to comment when asked if police would support a drug checking trial following sustained calls from medical bodies including the Australian Medical Association as well as politicians including federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale.
Rainbow Serpent organisers declined to comment.