A new player in the regional Victorian ‘bush doof’ scene has emerged following the much-publicised cancellation of a popular event near Charlton last year.
Esoteric, a three-day festival in north-western Victoria, will fill the void left by the alternative music event, Maitreya, after it was refused a permit by the Buloke Shire Council.
The dispute between Maitreya Festival organisers and the council was elevated to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in February 2016, and the tribunal ruled in favour of the municipality.
The council argued it could not issue a permit after documents – including insurance, security bonds, emergency contingency plans, and agreements with Liquor Licensing and Ambulance Victoria – were not supplied by organisers.
Regional ‘bush doofs’, like Rainbow Serpent in Lexton, have reported numerous drug overdoses and arrests in recent years.
And Rainbow Serpent organisers recently suggested pill testing should be used at events after three people died and countless more overdosed in Chapel Street, Melbourne, in January.
“I’m not keen on bringing drugs into our community, but you cannot stop a festival because there is a possibility there could be drugs there,” Buloke Shire Council mayor David Pollard said.
Unlike other festival organisers, Esoteric, which will be based in Donald, claims to be community owned.
About 80 per cent of the active and silent investors are locals, according to Donald resident, Jesse Bilkey.
The remaining funds were contributed by a marketing team, Mr Bilkey said.
“It started with a few people getting together saying the last one (Maitreya) didn’t work,” he said.
Cr Pollard said the Maitreya festival had tripled in size (15,000) by 2015, and the organisers showed no inclination in complying with local regulations the following year.
Esoteric is awaiting a Places of Public Entertainment permit, which is usually granted the week before an event, according to Cr Pollard, who expects no problems authorising this year’s festival.
The festival is scheduled for the Labour Day weekend, from March 11-13.