Thousands of young people partied to electronic music at the Rainbow Serpent Festival in Lexton over the weekend, but there was an unlikely face among the bright costumed crowd.
Buninyong MP Geoff Howard, chairman of a state inquiry into drug law reform, attended the festival to meet with festival organisers and police and see the issue of drug use first-hand.
Drug use at the Lexton festival was thrown into the spotlight again in 2017 when a man died and one in eight motorists tested returned a positive drug result, prompting an increased police presence this year.
Rainbow Serpent festival organiser Tim Harvey said staff had worked to support all Victoria Police operations over the weekend to create a safe environment for over 14,000 patrons.
“Rainbow Serpent Festival considers drug use to be a serious health issue facing society, whether they are legal or illicit,” he said.
“While we strongly urge patrons not to bring drugs to the festival and security conduct car searches, we recognise that if drugs can make it into prisons, the reality is some will find their way into our festival.”
Police, Ambulance Victoria and St John’s ambulance had crews on site.
Police will be out in force with a round the clock presence at the Rainbow Serpent Festival this year. The annual festival in Lexton, near Ballarat, commences on Thursday and police will have a zero tolerance for illegal activity. More → https://t.co/HUOrn69ugmpic.twitter.com/zds3xNBz7U— Victoria Police (@VictoriaPolice) January 21, 2018
Pyrenees Shire Council mayor David Clark said he had noticed an increased police presence on the local roads.
“The concerns around drink or drug impaired drivers are still there. That has been an issue we have discussed strongly with the police,” he said.
Cr Clark said council had discussed booze and drug bus set ups with police to monitor patrons leaving the festival over coming days.
Rainbow Serpent organiser Mr Harvey said the festival provided alcohol and drug testing for patrons concerned about their ability to drive.
“Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol is dangerous and puts lives at risk. We advise our patrons that in Victoria, roadside drug testing does not test for impairment, and that they may feel completely fine to drive and still fail the test,” he said.
A free shuttle bus to Beaufort or Ballarat is also on offer for patrons to connect with public transport and return later in the week to pick up their vehicle.
All patrons must leave the Lexton site by 12pm on Tuesday. Festival music and activities conclude on Monday evening.
Buninyong MP Geoff Howard was unavailable to speak to media on Sunday afternoon.